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Online learning: Learner characteristics and their approaches to managing learning

, Indiana University, United States

Indiana University . Awarded


In the context of rapidly growing online distance education and the potential it has to support leaner-centered environments, this study examined how students approach online learning in authentic distance education settings. In distance education, freedom and flexibility are unquestionably highly valued by learners. But the ability to manage the learning demands that come with this freedom and flexibility, while the key to success, presents a challenge for many learners. The goals of this dissertation were to identify and understand distinctive approaches learners take when working in such courses and to examine how these approaches relate to learner characteristics and to performance. The context was a set of online teacher professional development courses (LTTS that are designed around guided problem-solving with the problem being the applications of the concepts to his or her classroom and on one-on-one mentoring to give the teacher flexibility as well as targeted guidance.

Participants were 64 learners taking LTTS courses over a two-year period. Click-stream data on the management of time and learning resources were entered into a cluster analysis and used to identify "naturally" occurring groups of students with a specific profile. Resulting clusters were then linked to participants' background and attitudes and their performance in the courses. Three distinctive learning approaches were identified: Mastery Oriented, Task Focused, and Minimalist in Effort. Despite the widespread concern that students will have difficulty managing their time in online learning environments with a high level of student freedom, this study found that the vast majority of learners were very effective in their learning strategies. The findings speak well for the potential of distance education environments to provide high quality learner-centered and self-paced learning experiences, accommodating learners interested in working on the task seriously but efficiently as well as learners who want to probe in depth. This is very difficult to accomplish in group-paced courses. Significant differences between groups were found for age, teaching experience, and previous experience with distance education, but not for learning outcomes or attitude variables.


del Valle, R. Online learning: Learner characteristics and their approaches to managing learning. Ph.D. thesis, Indiana University. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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