Self-efficacy and college students’ perceptions and use of online learning systems

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  • a School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, Louisiana State University,

    iated model in which the block of antecedents had a direct eect on self-ecacy, a direct inuence onthe outcome measures, and an indirect eect on the outcomes through their inuence on self-ecacy.

    have become increasingly popular because they make available a range of components

    * Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 225 578 2457; fax: +1 225 578 5755.E-mail addresses: (R. Bates), (S. Khasawneh).

    1 Tel.: +225 578 5491.

    Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 175191

    Computers inHuman Behavior0747-5632/$ - see front matter 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.In general, the ndings suggest that the relationships between self-ecacy, its antecedents, and sev-eral online learning outcomes are more complex than has typically been recognized in the research. 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    1. Introduction

    Technology is increasingly shaping how learning experiences are delivered. A variety ofcomputer-based technologies such as authoring tools, multimedia servers, learning cata-logs, e-mail, and various software platforms are becoming an essential part of collegeclassrooms. Online learning systems such as BlackBoard, Semester Book, or WebBoard107 Old Forestry, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USAb School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, Louisiana State University,

    235 Old Forestry, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA

    Available online 10 May 2004


    This research hypothesized a mediated model in which a set of antecedent variables inuencedstudents online learning self-ecacy which, in turn, aected student outcome expectations, masteryperceptions, and the hours spent per week using online learning technology to complete learningassignments for university courses. The results are consistent with the inference of a partially med-Self-ecacy and college students perceptionsand use of online learning systems

    Reid Bates a,*, Samer Khasawneh b,1doi:10.1016/j.chb.2004.04.004

  • 176 R. Bates, S. Khasawneh / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 175191that are seen as capable of enhancing learning and instruction. These components ofteninclude:

    Authoring and assembly tools (e.g., multimedia, HTML) that can be used to createlearning content.

    Storage and distribution components such as test and resource banks. Synchronous and asynchronous interactive components (e.g., email, chat rooms, dis-cussion boards) that allow learners and instructors to build real-time collaborativelearning environments.

    Learning management elements that instructors can use to direct and administer thelearning process (Robson, 2002).

    The incorporation of these technological elements into online learning systems is believedto provide a number of signicant instructional advantages. For example, these systemsare seen as having the ability to:

    Overcome the time and place constraints on instruction found in traditionalclassrooms.

    Make available to students a greater breadth of information about course topics. Provide a means to more closely monitor and facilitate student progress. Encourage more chair-time and time-on-task. Facilitate more active participation and interaction. Provide instructors with an increased range of instructional techniques and options.

    Although advocates of online learning systems see great potential, critics have outlineda number of potentially troubling issues. There have been suggestions, for example, thatthe design and implementation of these systems are often done with little reference tothe body of laws or principles of learning (Salas & Cannon-Bowers, 2001). These authorssuggest that a science of e-learning has yet to evolve and that, until it does, many issuesabout how to best design these systems to enhance learning will remain unanswered.

    There are also a number of critical issues related to students reactions to these technol-ogies. There are indications that as many as one-third of college students suer from tech-nophobia (DeLoughery, 1993), or a fear of computer and information technology. Thismay be compounded by the instructional demands of online learning technology whichrequires students to be capable of using a variety of computer-related technologies suchas e-mail, internet search engines, chat rooms, databases and so on (Kinzie & Delcourt,1991). Multiple demands of this kind can leave students feeling shocked, confused, at aloss for personal control, angry and withdrawn (Sproull, Zubrow, & Kiesler, 1986). Suchreactions could certainly impair students belief in their capacity to use and learn from thetechnology and undermine their motivation to use them in the future.

    It is also important to note that students use of online learning technology in universityand college classrooms is generally non-volitional. That is, when course activities andrequirements are built around online learning technology, students have little choice aboutwhether or not to use the technology. Under these conditions the inuence of individualattitudes, perceptions, and beliefs on student use of the technology, learning, or otherimportant outcomes may be substantially amplied (Gutek, Winter, & Chudoba, 1992

    cited in Henry & Stone, 1994).

  • R. Bates, S. Khasawneh / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 175191 177These kinds of considerations underscore the critical importance of understanding howstudents react to and use e-learning technology in college and university classrooms. Agood deal of research has been done in the last decade examining individual attitudes,beliefs, and perceptions of computer-based instruction and information technology (IT).However, this research has tended to focus on user attitudes and anxiety constructs andhow these are associated with individual dierence variables (e.g., gender) and systemdesign features. Much of it has also been criticized because it has not been grounded intheoretical models that would provide more concrete insights into the causes of individualreactions (Henry & Stone, 1994).

    On the other hand, one promising area of research, grounded in social cognitive theory(SCT) (Bandura, 1982), has focused on self-ecacy as a predictor of individual percep-tions and use of computing technology (e.g., Decker, 1998; Gist, Schwoerer, & Rosen,1989; Hill, Smith, & Mann, 1986, 1987). In general, this research has shown that individ-uals are constantly making decisions about accepting and using computer technologyand that self-ecacy plays an important role in these decisions (Venkatesh & Davis,1996, p. 452).

    The present study seeks to extend current research on the role of self-ecacy in reac-tions to and use of computer technology in three key areas. First, with few exceptions(e.g., studies by Compeau, Higgins, & Hu, 1999; Henry & Stone, 1994) the previousresearch in this area has focused on the role of self-ecacy as a correlate or predictorof various outcomes related to computer acceptance and use. For example, studies haveshown self-ecacy to be a signicant predictor of computer technology use among collegestudents (Kinzie & Delcourt, 1991; Kinzie, Delcourt, & Powers, 1994; Prieto & Altmaier,1994), student attitude towards computer technologies (Kinzie & Delcourt, 1991), inten-tions to learn about computers (Hill, Smith, & Mann, 1987), and desirability of learningcomputer skills (Zhang & Espinoza, 1998). Consistent with SCT, ndings such as thesesuggest that self-ecacy beliefs play a mediating role between prior experiences and pres-ent outcomes (Bandura, 1997). In general, however, past research has interpreted self-ecacy as a mediator without statistically testing for such a relationship. Evaluating themediating role of self-ecacy in the context of online learning technology would providea better understanding of the functional properties of self-ecacy and further clarify whatfactors may account for dierences in individual reactions and behavior when using onlinelearning technology.

    A second limitation of previous research has been that it has not fully examined the fac-tors that may contribute to the development of individual self-ecacy in computer-mediated learning settings. Most of the research appears to be concerned with outcomesof self-ecacy beliefs rather than the factors that foster those beliefs. Without a more com-plete understanding of the antecedents of self-ecacy our capacity to design instruction orother interventions to build ecacy beliefs and facilitate acceptance and use of onlinelearning technology is limited. The present research seeks to identify and test a numberof theoretically based factors believed to contribute to the development of ecacy beliefs.

    Finally, little self-ecacy research has been extended to some of the newer computer-based learning technologies such as CD-ROM databases, e-mail (Kinzie et al., 1994),and, most importantly, the online learning systems popular today on college campuses.

    The objective of the present research was to empirically examine several key anteced-ents of self-ecacy and test the role of online learning self-ecacy as a mediator between

    these antecedents and perceptions and use of online learning technology in university

  • classrooms. The variables examined in this study are shown in Fig. 1 and are described inmore detail below. This research hypothesized a mediated model in which a set of anteced-ent variables inuence students online learning self-ecacy that, in turn, aects studentoutcome expectations, mastery perceptions, and the hours spent per week using onlinelearning technology to complete learning assignments.

    2. Self-ecacy and its antecedents

    Self-ecacy refers to ones personal judgments about his or her performance capabili-

    178 R. Bates, S. Khasawneh / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 175191ties in a given domain of activity (Schunk, 1985). Ecacy beliefs are self-regulatory mech-anisms that can inuence choice of behavior (e.g., to use or avoid online learning systems),motivation (e.g., eort and persistence in using online learning technology), level of per-formance, and the level of stress experienced under demanding circumstances (Bandura,1991).

    Individual ecacy appraisals occur most often when people encounter novel, unpre-dictable or demanding tasks (Bandura, 1982). Thus, students encountering online learningsystems for the rst time or applying these systems to new learning tasks will likely gen-erate and process ecacy information relative to this technology. Whether accurate orfaulty, ecacy beliefs can, over extended periods of time, inuence choices about whattechnologies to adopt, how much to use them, and how much to persist in the face ofobstacles to successful use of such technologies (Compeau et al., 1999, p. 155).

    Self-ecacy beliefs are the product of multiple sources of ecacy information (Ban-dura, 1991). Key sources of this information include enactive mastery (e.g., past perfor-mance accomplishments resulting from previous experiences or training), verbal persuasionsuch as that resulting from collaboration and performance-related corrective feedback,and physiological arousal including changes in emotional states such as anxiety, fear, orpositive anticipation (Bandura, 1982).

    2.1. Enactive mastery: Past performance and training

    Students approach learning situations with various prior experiences. Those experiencesare closely evaluated producing information that is used to make judgments about presentcapabilities (Bandura, 1991). As SCT suggests, performance successes, particularly in theface of adversity, reinforce ecacy beliefs but failures create doubt and undermine self-beliefs of capability (Wood & Bandura, 1989b). In general, therefore, past success withonline learning technology would be expected to lead to higher self-ecacy whereas poorpast performance would tend to lower self-ecacy.Fig. 1. Research model.

  • R. Bates, S. Khasawneh / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 175191 179The successful use of online learning technology requires the application of strategies ora set of sequenced operations that students apply to meet learning demands. Training canhelp students learn these strategies and it can build ecacy beliefs that will foster their use.This suggests that students using online learning technology who receive training earlyin the course from their instructors about how to use various elements of online learningsystems, and have opportunities to practice those behaviors may exhibit higher levels ofself-ecacy than students who do not receive such training.

    2.2. Performance feedback

    The development of ecacy beliefs requires that individuals get clear information abouttheir mastery and acquisition of knowledge or skills being pursued. Instructor feedbackabout performance supports this process by clarifying the outcomes and pattern of pro-gress being made and by providing data upon which ecacy judgements can be made.Thus supportive feedback from a university instructor or professor about a students per-formance in completing course assignments using online learning technology could be animportant source of ecacy information. Ecacy beliefs would be expected to mediate therelationship between this feedback and subsequent perceptual and behavioral outcomes.

    2.3. Physiological states

    Social cognitive theory also suggests that physiological states such as anxiety, stress,and fatigue can provide ecacy information. Strong emotional reactions to a task arebelieved to provide cues about the level of success or failure that can be anticipated incompleting that task (Pajares, 1997). Thus when task demands associated with using ane-learning system produce symptoms of stress (sweating, anxiety) or negative aect (appre-hension), students may interpret these to indicate they dont have the capability to com-plete the task(s) successfully. By the same token, when these reactions are no longerpresent (e.g., after the student develops some expertise) recognition that they are no longerreacting negatively could lead to a heightened sense of self-ecacy (Schunk, 1985).

    2.4. Nature of online learning ability

    One other potentially important inuence on ecacy judgments that has not beenexamined in the context of computer or information technology relates to how individualsperceive the nature of online learning ability. Wood and Bandura (1989b) suggest that, incomplex decision-making environments, whether an individual perceives ability as analterable and acquirable skill or a relatively xed capacity can inuence ecacy beliefsand subsequent performance. Thus, it is possible that students who perceive the abilityto use this technology as a relatively xed aptitude would be less apt to report high ecacylevels or positive expectations about the learning outcomes of using online learning tech-nology. Consequently, they are also likely to feel they had acquired relatively more modestlevels of mastery as a result of using these systems. Students who view this ability as analterable and acquirab...


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