Supporting Students’ Self-Regulated and Self-Directed Learning in the Remote Environment
This site describes self-regulated learning and why self-regulated learning is beneficial yet more challenging in remote learning environments, and outlines strategies that instructors can implement to support student self-regulation and learning in remote courses.
What is Self-Regulated Learning?
A self-regulated learner actively and strategically uses metacognitive, motivational, and behavioral processes to achieve specific learning and performance goals (Zimmerman, 2008, 2011).
- Metacognitive processes: thinking about, monitoring, and evaluating the effectiveness of one’s learning strategies, self-evaluating progress and outcomes, adjusting strategies when needed
- Motivational processes: goal setting, initiating and sustaining goal-directed learning activities
- Behavioural processes: seeking help from instructor or peers, making a schedule to manage time, modifying one’s environment to avoid distractions, keeping a study log, regulating the amount of effort expended on various learning tasks
Self-regulated learning is related to increased academic performance among university students in both traditional (Nota, Soresi, & Zimmerman, 2004) and online courses (Broadbent & Poon, 2015).
Self-Regulated Learning in Remote Environments
In the transition to remote learning, students are learning how to learn again. Self-regulation strategies are of greater importance in online and remote learning environments due to their more autonomous nature (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2004), but students may be unfamiliar with the self-regulation strategies required to be successful in this environment (Azevedo & Hadwin, 2005). The self-regulation strategies they used in face-to-face courses may not be as effective in the remote environment. Students may also experience barriers to their self-regulated learning in remote courses, including (see Kohan et al., 2017):
- being overwhelmed with more content and information in the LMS environment (e.g., videos, readings, links to external resources)
- experiencing a heavier workload due to more lower-stakes assignments
- experiencing more mind wandering and distraction due to learning on their devices and at home
- less clarity regarding expectations for assignments and confusion about the weighting of assessments (some students will exert the same effort on a 2% quiz as a 15% assignment because the online environment may make these assessments seem equally important)
- fewer informal and formal opportunities for interaction and support from instructors and peers
- ambiguity and change in the roles of instructors and students, including expectations for communication, guidance, presence, and independent learning
Students’ self-regulation strategies are not likely to improve from increased exposure to or experience with online courses (Barnard-Brak, Paton, & Lan, 2010). If we want students to meet our learning outcomes and succeed in our courses, research suggests that instructors should consider implementing strategies to support students’ self-regulated learning (Azevedo & Hadwin, 2005; Barnard-Brak et al., 2010; Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2004; Ferla et al., 2010; Wandler & Imbriale, 2017; Zheng, 2016).
Strategies to Support Students’ Self-Regulated Learning
The following course design and instructional strategies can support students’ learning and their skills as self-regulated learners in remote courses:
|Strategy||Implementation Strategies and Examples|
|Provide resources around self-regulated learning||
|Have a well-defined course organization and navigation||
|Prompt students to manage their time and effort||
|Prompt students to monitor and reflect on their learning||
|Scaffold assessments and clarify expectations||
|Encourage help seeking||
For more strategies, see:
- Teaching Metacognitive Skills, University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence
- Metacognition, Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
- Tips for Fostering Students’ Self-Regulated Learning in Asynchronous Online Learning Environments, Rachel Ebner (2020), Faculty Focus
- Promoting College Student Self-Regulation in Online Learning Environments, Wandler & Imbriale (2017), Online Learning Journal
- Promoting Student Metacognition, Tanner (2017), CBE-Life Sciences Education
- Azevedo, R., & Hadwin, A. F. (2005). Scaffolding self-regulated learning and metacognition–Implications for the design of computer-based scaffolds. Instructional Science, 33, 367–379.
- Barnard-Brak, L., Paton, V. O., & Lan, W. Y. (2010). Self-regulation across time of first-generation online learners. Research in Learning Technology, 18(1), 61-70.
- Broadbent, J., & Poon, W. L. (2015). Self-regulated learning strategies & academic achievement in online higher education learning environments: A systematic review. The Internet and Higher Education, 27, 1–13.
- Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2004). Supporting self-regulation in student-centered web-based learning environments. International Journal on E-Learning, 3, 40—47.
- Ferla, J., Valcke, M., & Schuyten, G. (2010). Judgments of self-perceived academic competence and their differential impact on students’ achievement motivation, learning approach, and academic performance. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 25, 519-536.
- Kohan, N., Arabshahi, K. A., Mojtahedzadeh, R., Abbaszadeh, A., Rakhshani, T., & Emami, A. (2017). Self-directed learning barriers in a virtual environment: A qualitative study. Journal of Advances in Medical Education and Professionalism, 5,116-123.
- Nota, L., Soresi, S., & Zimmerman, B. J. (2004). Self-regulation and academic achievement and resilience: A longitudinal study. International Journal of Educational Research, 41, 198-215.
- Wandler, J., & Imbriale, W. J. (2017). Promoting college student self-regulation in online learning environments. Online Learning Journal, https://olj.onlinelearningconsortium.org/index.php/olj/article/view/881
- Zheng, L. (2016). The effectiveness of self-regulated learning scaffolds on academic performance in computer-based learning environments: A meta-analysis. Asia Pacific Education Review, 17, 187–202.
- Zimmerman, B.J. (2008). Investigating self-regulation and motivation: historical background, methodological developments, and future prospects. American Educational Research Journal, 45, 166–183.
- Zimmerman, B. J. (2011). Motivational sources and outcomes of self-regulated learning performance. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 49-64). New York, NY: Routledge.