SELF-REGULATION IN WEB-BASED COURSES: A Review and the Need for Research

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to investigate the construct of academic self-regulation in Web-based learning environments. Self-regulation will be discussed in general using social cognitive theory as the framework of the discussion. The article concludes with a brief review of the limited amount of research on self-regulation in Web-based environments.


Distance education is now commonplace in most institutions of higher learning, and the number of courses offered at a distance is on the rise. In a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2003) distance education was defined as "education or training courses delivered to remote (off-campus) sites via audio, video (live or prerecorded), or computer technologies including both synchronous (i.e., simultaneous) and asynchronous (i.e., not simultaneous) instruction" (p. 1). The authors of that study report that during the 12-month 2000-2001 academic year 56% of all 2- and 4-year Title IV eligible institutions offered distance education courses and 12% of all institutions indicated that they planned to start offering distance education courses in the next 3 years. During the reported academic year, it is estimated that 3,077,000 students were enrolled in distance education courses offered by 2-year and 4-year institutions. The Internet is the most commonly used technology with which to deliver distance education. The NCES also reported that during the 2000-2001 academic year, 90% of institutions offering distance education courses delivered the courses via the Internet. Additionally, the NCES reported that of the institutions that offered distance education courses or that planned to offer distance education courses in the next 3 years, 88% indicated plans to start using or increase the use of the Internet as their means of delivery for those courses. In a more recent report sponsored by the Sloan Consortium (Allen & Seaman, 2004) 2.6 million students were expected to be enrolled in online courses in the fall of 2004 and the average growth rate for online students in 2004 was predicted to be 24.8%. Also, it was reported in the Sloan Consortium report that 53.6% of the schools surveyed believe "online education is critical to their long-term strategy" (p. 7).

The millions of students enrolled now or who will enroll in distance education programs may find the courses to be attractive for many reasons, including the asynchronous nature of such offerings. However, once enrolled, the students may experience a sense of isolation with regard to the course. The standard motivating forces active in traditional classrooms such as group pressure, a familiar learning situation, and social factors are often absent in distance education programs (Zvacek, 1991). In many instances, to be successful in these online courses, learners will need to rely on their individual abilities of directing their learning and navigating through assignments and deadlines. That is, the learners will need to use self-regulated learning strategies.


Self-regulation refers to the degree to which learners are "metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning process" (Zimmerman, 1989, p. 329). Self-regulation can be described as a triadic reciprocality. In such a reciprocality there are three basic, interdependent elements of the construct. In the case of self-regulation, those three elements can be described as behavior, environment, and self (Zimmerman, 1989). The reader should not assume that the three components of this reciprocality are weighted equally. At any given time, one or more of the components may be the predominant factor (Bandura, 1986).

Behavioral Components of Self-Regulation

Bandura (1986) proposed three internal subfunctions involved in one's self-regulation that result from one's interaction with the environment: self-observation, self-judgment, and self-reaction. …