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Six Hypotheses about the Motivation for E-Learning Courses

Dr. Fedor Smirnov, Pedagogical University of Jaroslawl, Russia

Studies on e-learning often argue that new forms of teach- ences. 80% of the students participating in the survey as-
ing and learning and the possibilities of the new media in sess their computer and internet competences as average
education should bring along a strong impetus for intrinsic or good. Computers seem to have become a common tool
motivation in the learner. Furthermore, the use of multi-
media alone should be enough motivation for successful
learning processes. However, the introduction of e-learning
material often results in an insufficient use of this material
by the students. Unexperienced Users
The basis for this paper is a survey which took place at
the University of Marburg, performed in three courses in Experienced Users
a blended learning format supported by the Virtual Lin-
guistics Campus (VLC). The survey suggests that motiva-
tion in the learner is not intrinsic but extrinsic especially
in the case of new Bachelor degree programs. Furthermore,
it points out that computer literacy and expected problems
with the software do not play the role itUnexperienced
may have playedUsers
some years ago.
Experienced Users Figure 1: previous experience with e-learning
The survey covers three courses at the University of Mar-
burg, two with first and second year students, and one with not stated
users who are further advanced in their studies. A total of Unexperienced
120 students participated in the survey. The survey took among German students, the majority of students have suf-totally disagree
place at the beginning of the semester, mainly asking stu- ficient knowledge to use a computer for their studies. Only
disagree
dents about their expectations of the courses, some of them few students doubt that their knowledge of computers and
Experienced the Internet is sufficient, which may be differ-
agree
Unexperienced
ent in other countries Users
like Russia.
0 Most20students are60 frequent
40 Experienced internet
80Users100 totally agree
users,
not stated
spending 8 - 10 hours a week on the web. Ad-
Unexperienced totally disagree vanced students spend less time on the web,
which may be due to the higher workload for
disagree exam preparation. not stated
Experienced agree Unexperienced Result 2: Extrinsic motivation is more totally
im- disagree
portant for participation in e-learning
0 20 40 60 80 100 totally agree disagree
courses than intrinsic motivation.

Figure 2: course certificate as motivation for participation


Experienced agree
Motivation for participation in notthe courses
stated
was a course certificate in most cases. Figure 2 agree
totally
Unexperienced
not stated 0 20 40 60 80
indicates that the largest part of
100
students
totally an-
disagree
swered this question positively. The introduc-
Unexperienced
knowing that the courses will be in blended format, some oftotally disagree
tion of modularized degree programs brings along disagree
a need in
them not. Figure 1 shows the proportions of experienced Experienced the students to study effectively and to attempt fast com-
disagree agree
and unexperienced users participating in the survey. Find- pletion of their studies. Thus, the integration of e-learning
ings are divided into these groups since the questions areagree courses into university curricula is very important.
Experienced While
totally agree
0 20 40 60 80 100
especially designed to find out about the influence of ex- the acceptance of additional e-learning material is generally
perience with e-learning
0 20 on 40
the motivation
60 80 of 100 totally agree
the learners.
A first evaluation of the survey results sug-
gests six hypotheses about learner expecta- not stated
tion and motivation: Unexperienced totally disagree
Result 1: Computer and internet literacy disagree
becomes less important as requirement
for successful participation in e-learning Experienced agree
courses.
0 20 40 60 80 100 totally agree
Insufficient computer and internet literacy is
decreasing among students of the human sci- Figure 3: interest in subject as motivation for participation
not stated saves time and allows learning according to
one’s own schedule even increases with expe-
Unexperienced totally disagree rience.

disagree Result 4: Most students do not expect tech-


Experienced nical difficulties while learning with the
not stated
agree
new media.
Unexperienced totally disagree
0 20 40 60 80 100 totally agree
66% of the unexperienced users do not expect
technical difficulties while learningdisagree
with the
Figure 4: curiosity as motivation for participation
Experienced
new media. It is interesting to see that this
number does not increase with agreeexperience
(63%). Difficulties with the technical aspects
totally agree
0 20 40 60 80 100
low when the relevance for obtaining a course certificate isnot stated of e-learning are always an important factor which keeps
low, the equalization of e-learning courses and traditional away users from e-learning courses. The VLC seems to avoid
Unexperienced
courses result in a much higher acceptance rate, thus result-not totally disagree
statedsuch difficulties.
ing in higher motivation in the students.
Unexperienced
As has been mentioned, the intrinsic motiva- disagree
totally disagree
tion of the
Experienced learners is often declared as one
agree
disagree not stated
of the main advantages of e-learning from a
didactic point 0of view. Unexperienced
Experienced 20 The 40 survey,60however,
80 100 totally
agree agree totally disagree
suggests the following scenario: unexperi-
enced users find 0 that20 the certification
40 60 for80 the 100 totally agree disagree
course (external motivation) is of utmost im-
Experienced agree
portance, personal interest in the subject is
low with almost half of the students (compare
not stated0 20 40 60 80 100 totally agree
Figures 2 and 3). Students who have experi-
enced e-learning courses before show a higher
Unexperienced
intrinsic motivation (73% vs 66%). Whereas Figure totally disagree
5: no technical difficulties with the e-learning environment
not stated
certification remains an important factor, disagree
Unexperienced
personal interest develops with experience. totally disagree
Experienced
Curiosity is also often mentioned to be one agree not stated
of the major aspects which should bring learners to use thedisagree Result 5: The potential drop-out-rate decreases with the
Unexperienced totally disagree
new media. The0 survey
Experienced 20 did not
40 suggest
60 the80sustainability
100 oftotally agree
increasing of e-learning experience.
agree
such motivation. Beginners are more curious than advanced
disagree
students (57%0vs 44%), 20 which 40 means 60 that80curiosity
100 cannot A higher experience with e-learning courses results in a low
totally agree
be used as sustaining source for motivation. Experienceddrop-out-rate: 23% to 12% (Figure 6). The useagree of new forms
of learning may be supported by this result. Consequences
0 20 from
40 this
60 may80be that 100 an early contact
totally with
agree
e-learning and a thorough support of the
learners by the course instructor can help
not stated to decrease difficulties and fears at an early
Unexperienced stage. Thus, e-learning can become a common
totally disagree
element in university life.
disagree
Result 6: Assumptions about the value of e-
Experienced agree learning are rather diverse.

0 20 40 60 80 100 totally agree Students have diverse assumptions about the


value of e-learning. Only half of them is cer-
Figure 6: fearing drop-out due to any difficulties tain that e-learning inspires more intensive
learning than traditional forms. The same is
true for creativity supported by the new me-
dia. This, however, points to a positive devel-
opment. It is understood by the students that
Result 3: The assumption that e-learning is self-explana- e-learning does not necessarily guarantee successful learn-
tory and a valuable support for individual learning suc- ing but requires a higher discipline and the ability of self-
cess is shared by most participants. directed learning.

Although the number slightly decreases with experience,


most students (80%) share the assumption that e-learning
material as provided by the VLC is self-explanatory.
Also, most students agree that e-learning supports indi-
vidual learning progress. The expectation that e-learning Translated from German by Alexander Sperl