Do we in fact, need each other?

Hodges (2008) defines academic self-efficacy as “one’s confidence to perform successfully in academic endeavors” (p8).  Self-efficacy in learning falls under cognitive constructivism learning theory, which views student motivation as an intrinsic process where students motivate themselves to learn and set their own learning goals (Hodges, 2008). This is highly relevant to MOOCs which are designed to function within an environment of student autonomy; the students are responsible for enrolling, participating, and completing their own courses. Despite the unique profile of this learning technology, the MOOC appears to have failed to produce the gold standard of education; student completion rates are staggeringly lower than most other educational environments. One proposed reason is the lack of engagement from their peers. Observation of peers completing a task has been shown to improve motivation through increasing self-efficacy in learners, conveying to them that they too can complete the task (Miltiadou & Savenye 2003). 

MOOCs do not offer the same face-to-face learning environment as traditional classroom learning and have little to no accountability within the learning environment itself. There may be almost no interaction between students, or between the student and teacher. In his own review of an online Yale course, Professor Edmundson (2012) acknowledged the content was very good, but it had an anonymous, vacant feeling from the seemingly one directional flow of knowledge. He describes learning as collaborative, and “a truly memorable college class, even a large one, is a collaboration between teacher and students” (Edmundson, 2012, para. 14). The need for peer contact and support within an online learning environment may be a contributing factor to the lack of completion from some learners. Lack of connectedness in a social context is directly linked to decreased performance and lack of initiative (Ryan & Deci, 2000), further supporting a learning environment where the students engage with each other will increase motivation and performance. 

One might purpose the benefits of the MOOC are vast, but if you’re looking for a successful intimate learning experience, best stick to your local college for a traditional education. 


Edmundson, M. (2012, July 19). The trouble with online education. New York Times. New York.

Hodges, C. B. (2008). Self-efficacy in the context of online learning environments: A review of the literature and directions for research. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 20(3‐4), 7-25.

Miltiadou, M., & Savenye, W. C. (2003). Applying social cognitive constructs of motivation to enhance student success in online distance education. AACE Journal, 11(1).

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

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