Assessing the effects of online and face-to-face discussions on factors supporting individual student intrinsic motivation


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Ronnie Homi SHROFF

Related Research Unit(s)


Awarding Institution
  • Douglas VOGEL (Supervisor)
Award date14 Jul 2006


Research has established that intrinsic motivation has a positive effect on learning and academic achievement (Dev 1997). However, a fundamental problem is that little is known about the impact of different technology-supported learning activities on student intrinsic motivation and whether such learning activities significantly enhance student intrinsic motivation compared to traditional classroom environments without technological support. Prior research has presented investigations and findings related to the significance of particular intrinsic motivation variables. For example, factors supporting intrinsic motivation have been shown to have considerable impact upon learning in a traditional classroom setting. Although these data have been somewhat generous for face-to-face learning environments, this does not appear to be the case for technology-supported online environments. To achieve the research goals of investigating the phenomenon of intrinsic motivation in technology-supported learning environments, this study; 1) investigates the factors that support individual student intrinsic motivation in online discussions; and 2) develops a research model that can test the impact of technology-supported learning and face-to-face learning on the factors that support individual student intrinsic motivation. This research model is based on a motivational foundation that puts together elements from the theories of self-determination and curiosity, which provide a framework for the model. Qualitative and quantitative research methodology is utilized to validate the model. Data were used to test the hypotheses postulating the main effects of online and face-to-face discussions on factors that support intrinsic motivation (competence, challenge, feedback, choice, interest and curiosity). A combined qualitative and quantitative research methodology was utilized. Results from the qualitative study showed that these five factors (competence, challenge, feedback, interest and curiosity) were strongly supported, with partial support for the construct of choice. For the quantitative study, univariate analysis showed a somewhat significant main effect of online discussions for perceived competence (p=0.074) and significant main effect for perceived choice (p=0.004), but not for perceived challenge (p=0.376), which was non-significant at the 0.5 level of variance. The results suggest that subjects in the online discussions felt less challenged than subjects in face-toface discussions. The results also suggest that there was no statistical difference in subjects' perception of feedback, interest and curiosity in the online and face-to-face discussions. Assessing the effects of online and face-to-face discussions on factors supporting individual student intrinsic motivation may enhance intrinsically motivated behavior in technologysupported learning environments. This would assist Web course designers and science educators to create online learning programs that best utilize students' capacity for learning and academic performance. The Web, with no direct verbal face-to-face interaction, lends itself better to online discussion in a more structured manner by enabling students to communicate more comfortably with their peers and provides a more egalitarian environment, where participants share the same tools and opportunities to communicate. The creation of online learning programs provides students significant opportunities for learning, such as the extended exchange of ideas and expertise where students can read, respond to, or initiate comments in a virtual meeting space.

    Research areas

  • Intrinsic motivation, Internet in education, Forums (Discussion and debate), Electronic discussion groups