Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Student Locus of Control and Online Course Performance: An Empirical Examination of Student Success in Online Management Courses

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Student Locus of Control and Online Course Performance: An Empirical Examination of Student Success in Online Management Courses

Article excerpt


A recent 2014 survey by the Babson Survey Research Group and co-sponsored by the Online Learning Consortium found that well over 6.7 million students reported taking one or more online course, a 3.7 percent increase from 2013. Thirty-two percent of higher education students now take at least one course online. The percent of academic leaders rating the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face was 74.1%. The proportion of chief academic leaders that say that online learning is critical to their long-term strategy is at a new high of 69.1 percent. (

Eduventures estimates that in 2011, almost 3 million students were enrolled in fully online programs (Eduventures, 2012). Many other programs provide a portion of their course delivery through online coursework. The same study forecasts the future growth of web-based courses over the next decade to average around forty percent annually. Moreover, distance delivery of curriculum is now becoming a standard medium for supplementing or replacing traditional classroom teaching (Dolezalek, 2003; Drago Peltier & Sorensen, 2002). For many institutions, the increased demand by students for online courses and improvements in web-based technology have made this an economical and useful way to increase student enrollment. The increasing availability of distance education reveals the growing importance of this method of instruction.

The increase in distance education offerings is directly related to the development of the internet and technologies that support online learning. Online education appears to be dramatically altering the education landscape. Although innovative technologies are important for the development of online course delivery, they are not sufficient to assure that distance education is effective. Online course delivery poses a whole set of unique problems that must be cleverly addressed. Moreover, despite the increased growth and interest in online management education, research surrounding its effectiveness is significantly sparse (Hay et al., 2004a; Martins & Kellermanns, 2004; Zapalska & Brozik, 2006). Future growth of online education will depend on the ability of educators and administrators to assure that this type of education delivery system will prepare students to meet today's competitive challenges (Dolezalek, 2003; Hay et al., 2004b). Clearly, not enough is understood about how to best plan, implement, and to evaluate online courses (Peltier et al., 2003). Pedagogical theories and approaches to effective teaching are needed in online learning environments (Arbaugh, 2002).

Online courses by their very nature are a unique form of course delivery. Many of the traditional methods of delivery in a brick and mortar classroom do not transfer well to the webbased environment. Therefore, online course delivery may have unique issues regarding student success. One such issue may be how well a student deals with the self-directed study nature of online courses. Considerable thought should be applied in the design of online courses, with particular attention paid to how students can more easily move through course content. This paper examines student success in online management principles courses and how that success may be linked to individual student self-motivation. We are interested in knowing whether a student's locus of control will be a partial determinant of their success in online courses. This information in turn can be used in course planning and teaching strategies for online course development.

The next section of this paper provides a review of the extant locus of control literature. The remainder of the paper details the hypotheses, methodology, and results and concludes with a discussion.

Literature review

Locus of control (LOC) was first introduced in 1954 by Julian Rotter (Rotter, 1954). It is conceptualized as an individual's perception of the source of control over their destiny or actions (Gershaw, 1989). …

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