The Effects of Self Directed Learning Thesis

Abstract

The main purpose of this study was to identify whether online learning environment had any effects on self-directed learning of English learners when used to supplement traditional teaching strategies. This study begins by exploring the benefits associated with using computers in language testing in such areas as test preparation and test delivery.

Several questions that have a direct connection to the hypothesis have been developed to serve as a guide for the research.

The featured research questions revolves around the impacts that online learning practices would tend to have on self directed learning; the types of learning skills which students are likely to achieve through online learning practices; and some of the main computer-assisted resources or programs that can be used to improve English learning practices on self-directed learners.

The subjects used in this research were undergraduate students undertaking reading and writing lessons at the university. The students who came from two different faculties and were combined to form a total of 50 study subjects. All of them agreed to take part in the exercise which aimed to examine how each of the two categories of learners would perform when exposed to different instructional methods.

The instruments used for this study included tools mainly used in the assessment of self-managed learning among learners, as it is determined by various learning settings. These instruments are Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) and Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory (OCLI).

Both primary and secondary data collection methods were used for this study. Primary techniques included use of surveys and direct experiments, while secondary techniques featured information from the internet such as data-sets, computer databases, and case materials as well as published articles or documents.

The comprehensive analysis of the aspects observed in the research establishes that the use of online learning environments or web-based environments tends to have some significant effects on self-directed learning.

In this regard, educators should find the use of online services or technology mediated instructional strategies as a correlation for students’ academic performance in higher learning institutions, thus incorporating them into course instructional design of English Learners.

Study Hypothesis

When supplemented with traditional learning strategies, self directed learning based on online practice can have some significant effects on English learners.

Research Purpose

Exploring the effects of self-directed learning based on online practices when supplemented with traditional teaching practices in English reading class.

Research questions

  1. What impacts do self directed learning on online practice has on learners?
  2. What learning skills are students likely to achieve through online learning practices?
  3. What are some of the main computer assisted resources or programs that can be used to improve English learning practices on learners?

Introduction

Fifty undergraduate students of English reading and writing classes in the university were used to test the hypothesis that self-directed learning based on online learning practices has fewer effects on learners’ academic performance. The participants comprised of two categories of students who enrolled for different courses in the same institution.

The first class was made up of 24 Engineer major students who would do online homework every time they completed a chapter in class. The other class comprised of 21 fashion design major students who did not engage in web-based learning practices. At the beginning of the semester, learners from both classes took the placement test and a total score of 50 was attained.

Class A average stood at 25.9 while class B average was recorded as 29.5. At the end of the semester, students in the two classes took an identical test. In this latter exam, class A average was 28 while class B average was 30.3. This was a clear indication that self-directed learning based on web-related practices had some effects on students’ performance.

According to Efklides, Kuhl and Sorrentino (2001), Self-directed learning is a concept of learning whereby individual students are encouraged to take increasingly more responsibility for certain decisions that are associated with the learning process.

Here, the learners are compelled to take responsibility for making use of essential learning resources and introducing strategies that would be suitable to them and to their learning objectives. The concept recognizes both internal and external factors that are likely to enhance a student to take crucial responsibility for study-related practices and actions.

In this regard, self-directed learning entails various resources and practices, such as self-guided study, participation in intern programs, electronic chats, study groups, and engaging writing exercises. The idea of self-directed study is said to have emerged from the field of adult learning.

Many terms and statements that are closely related to the concept have widely been applied in studies over the years and include self-planned study, self education, and independent learning, and autonomous study. Research on Self-Directed Learning has become more popular in the contemporary world. This, however, is as a result of the diverse trends that have occurred from the study of this form of learning.

Many people are spending a great deal of time searching for information and getting to learn new skills in life. The ever-increasing changes being witnessed all over the world, the rapid formation and introduction of new knowledge, and an ever-increasing accessibility of information has made the above objectives necessary for the people, particularly self-directed learners.

The modern trends of life which have greeted the world in recent years have seen the demand for self-directed learning continue to rise spontaneously around the world (Keller, 1999).

These will include things such as digital socialization, self-support books and other learning materials, open-school programs or resources, and internet-based learning, among other aspects of modernity. However, among all these learning features, continuous technological development in the world has contributed to a continuously changing culture that asks for abilities that matches the demands of the current world.

The change in the administration of educational programs from a teacher-centered to a student-centered focus is a clear indication that students are self-directed. This, however, does not necessarily imply that the entire learning exercise will happen in isolation or seclusion from either the teachers or the other learners.

As a matter of fact, effective teacher responsibilities and engagement with the learners will be possible through a number of interventions, such as in evaluation of the outcomes, dialogue with the students, getting learning resources for learners, and enhancement of critical thinking among the learners (Gibbons, 2002).

The main benefit that can be associated with self-directed learning is that individual students have the freedom of using their independence of taking increasingly more responsibility on various decisions associated with the manner in which they undertake their lessons.

In this regard, the learners have realized the power of online learning strategies in boosting their performance and motivation, thus embracing technology-mediated instructional approaches in their learning activities.

Even though there may be other factors or variables that may tend to influence the relationship between self-planned learning and academic performance, the use of web-based learning environments as a learning technique is observed to be a key determining factor here, as it has been shown in various studies.

The features of e-learning environments have proved to be extremely effective in promoting successful academic performance among learners of different education levels. In this regard, the world has witnessed a growing trend towards web-based learning by self-directed learners in the last couple of years following the inception and the development of the internet (Stewart, 2007).

As a matter of fact, the number of people who have chosen web-based learning as a primary learning and delivery method has increased tremendously in the past few years, owing to the emergence of fast, convenient internet connectivity technologies.

This phenomenon of web-based learning is evident in the number of learners who have enrolled in online courses across the world. According to latest study observations, the percentage of the enrolment number seems to increase with every day that passes.

Apart from acting as a boost for academic performance, autonomous learning also serves as a reliable indicator when it comes to assessment of academic success in both normal learning and internet-based learning settings. This has led to the interest of observing whether there is any kind of relationship between self-directed learning and online-based learning practices or interventions.

In this regard, researchers from allover the world have engaged in practical experiments in different learning environments with the aim of trying to determine whether or not web-based learning environments contributed to successful academic performance of self-directed learners.

In an attempt to prove the research hypothesis, this study has widely explored theoretical framework and literature review of other researchers on the impact of web-based learning on autonomous learners. This paper also examines various case studies from different learning environments and settings where the concept of self-directed learning applies.

The study has cited relevant contributions made by the researchers within those contexts in regard with the matter, and all these serve as a fundamental support of the hypothesis and the research questions.

In an attempt to prove the hypothesis, this study explores in detail the reason as to why web-based learning practices are effective, how learners can access them, and, finally, what impact this might bring on learners in different levels of education.

Theoretical Framework and Literature Review

Numerous studies have been conducted by researchers across the world with the aim of determining the instructional practices and techniques that will be effective and appropriate in teaching English learners. These studies have continued to serve as a key guide for teachers in different levels of education, who have been able to identify the most suitable approaches that could be applied to teach English to learners.

All learners will need diverse learning practices that will enable them practice their skills and abilities with assistance from the tutors as well as independently through other effective delivery systems. Learning environments such as the one offered by the internet have proved to be effective in offering learners additional platform to practice what they have learned in class.

More importantly, the setting provides English learners with a suitable ground for educational practices while at the same time offering educators an opportunity to execute their teaching responsibility better to all students. English learners can adequately use this platform along with the traditional teaching practices offered by their teachers to improve their performances in class (Song & Hill, 2007).

In this case, students who take online homework as a supplement of their normal learning practices are likely to do better than those learners who depend on teacher-induced learning practices alone.

The online learning environment offers many learning opportunities for students, and self-directed learners who have the ability of controlling themselves will tend to make use of this to opportunities to advance their learning experiences. As it would be observed, self directed students harbor various characteristics that would tend to separate them from other learners.

For example, this type of learners can independently plan and implement their own ways of learning and this makes it for them to manage their lessons in the most appropriate manner.

More importantly, this category of learners are usually driven by a strong purpose of skills and knowledge acquisition, and this willpower encourages them to seek and identify effective learning practices that would enable them achieve their educational objectives fully.

Guided by these characteristics, self-directed learners fully utilize web-based learning practices to add value to their education (Whipp & Chiarelli, 2004). In this regard, there has been a strong positive relationship between good educational performance of self-directed learners and the use of web-based learning practices which they constantly use.

Even though there has never been sufficient evidence about instructional technology being an effective learning tool for students in various educational settings, most studies have pointed out the possibility of strong connections between improved performance of self-directed learning and online learning practices.

As Lee (2000) observes, technology-mediated environments are essential to student learning and academic performance.

A recent study conducted to determine the learning outcomes that would be expected from self-directed learners of English on web-based environments indicated a higher performance improvement on learners who had taken both the traditional learning practices and web-based learning practices compared to those who have been exposed to traditional learning practices alone.

In another study that was conducted to explore the performance of self-directed learners based on various learning environments, different outcomes were noted for every approach that was observed.

In this particular case, learners who have been exposed to web-based learning practices and normal learning practices indicated slight improvements on performance compared to those who have been exposed to normal learning practices alone (Pachnowski and Jurczyk, 2003).

In this case, those autonomous learners who have taken web-based learning practices as a supplementary of their normal learning practices registered higher scores in the tests offered.

As Bishop-Clark, Dietz-Uhler and Fisher (2007) observe, research on the use of instructional technology has indicated the significance of exposing learners to modern technological aspects as a way of helping them master new skills that would enable them expand their knowledge acquisition methods, thus improving their educational performances.

As Dolmans et al (2005) observe, this gives the learners an opportunity to have a direct experience of the issues being studied in school as they are perceived and portrayed by people from other regions of the world. Internet-based learning practices also give self-directed learners the opportunity to further explore the topics discussed in class, and this helps them to meet their learning needs.

Most researchers who have explored the idea of web-based learning practices in different educational settings have observed that many self-directed learners are adept to modern technologies and will tend to show interest in those learning environments that offer them digital experience and social connectivity, among other aspects of modernity (Visser et al., 2002).

It has also been noted that things in the world are constantly changing and there are vast developments, both technical and scientific, that are being witnessed in the world today. In this respect, it is important for people to respond to the demands of the current times. This can only be achieved through student engagement in instructional technology whereby learning takes place outside the formal classroom.

Researchers have continued to demonstrate the benefits of extending learning responsibilities back to students through web-based learning practices. In this regard, self-directed learning experiences based on web-based learning environments have dismissed the perception that student learning can only be effectively administered by qualified teachers.

According to Howland and Moore (2002), the idea of giving learners the freedom to take self-directed learning outside the normal classroom settings has been observed to be a key source of motivation to the students, thus improving their satisfaction and educational performance.

This observation was confirmed through a study that was carried out to examine how various learning techniques and approaches affected the performance of self-directed learners undertaking English lessons from various higher educational facilities in the US.

In this case, it was observed that self-directed learners who were exposed to web-based learning experiences were highly motivated in academic activities and this played a crucial role in helping to eliminate dissatisfaction and cases of school dropout, among other effects.

Several studies have shown high levels of self-direct learning being associated with web-based learning practices whereby the relationship between the learning approach and academic performance has remained consistent (Long, 2003).

A study aimed at examining the types of interactions that may exist between learners and their learning environments indicated that there was a likelihood of high performance in educational matters in those environments where learners were exposed to maximum learner control and not teacher control.

In this regard, more positive outcome in terms of students’ performance would be expected in those learning settings where more than one instructional method has been applied. Learners in higher levels of education would require exposure to various learning environments where they can be able to put into practice what has been taught inside the normal classrooms.

As it would be observed, the application of technology in language teaching has become popular in modern world whereby various computer-assisted programs and resources have become very common in learning institutions (Confessore & Kops, 1998).

Research on best learning practices has shown the use of computer-assisted learning as an effective way of helping self-directed English learners attain their learning goals.

In a study conducted in Southern University in the US to determine the relationship that exists between the educational performances of self-directed learners and on online learning, web-based learning practices were observed to be significant promoters of good performance among self-directed learners (Corbel, 2003). Similar observations were made from a study that was done in a business setting.

The study featured a company in the Southern part of Taiwan where the participants’ performances were observed to have improved greatly among those learners who have regularly supplemented their normal learning practices with web-based learning practices or approaches.

Researchers have identified various computer-assisted programs that have proved to be effective in helping language learners perform better in their courses. These programs include, but are not limited to, Concordancing Software, Text-reconstruction Software, and Multimedia Software (Klein, Noe & Wang, 2006).

The Concordancing software enables people so search through texts of varied font sizes to identify instances of the application of certain words. This program serves as a supplement of reference books and can be used to search grammatical features. Text-reconstruction software enables educators to present learners with texts that are either incomplete or scrambled.

In this case, learners are expected to work independently or in groups to complete the texts with the rights words or to rearrange the content to come up with meaningful texts. This program offers the best computer-aided practices to self-directed English learners in that, hints on the correct letters or words are provided throughout the exercise to assist people in their language learning processes (Liu et al., 2002).

Finally, multimedia simulation software gives language students an opportunity to venture into computerized microworlds that would expose them to language through audio-visual context. All the above computer-aided programs were observed to have a significant impact on self-directed language learners from different learning settings or environments.

Methodology and Research Procedures

Literature Review Case Selection

In order to provide a concrete support to the study, empirical study materials from various sources of information mainly online databases were assembled.

This sophisticated investigation was conducted by searching the terms “self-planned learning”, “self education”, “student independent learning”, “web-based learning experiences,” “autonomous study,” “academic performance in self-directed,” and “success in self-directed learning environments”, among other relevant terms and phrases.

In combination, the entire search unfurled about 50 articles. However, after getting rid of the studies that had no connection to academic performance of self-directed learners based on web-based learning practices, I was left with less than ten studies that appeared to be closely connected to the subject matter.

Tools for assessing performance of autonomous Learners in various learning environments

The study observations made in this paper were quantified using Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) and Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory (OCLI) to assess how computer computer-aided learning programs tend to impact the performances of self-managed students.

Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) was invented by Dr. Guglielmino in 1977, and is one of the most effective tools used to assess the concept of self-directed learning. The assessment features a questionnaire bearing Likert-type aspects.

Ever since its development, SDLRS has been widely applied across the world. According to research statistics, the scale has been applied by many major corporations across the globe. In order to make it more reliable, SDLRS has been translated into many languages so far, and it is estimated that over 70,000 adults and 5,000 school-going people have utilized the scale.

This particular assessment scale constitutes of several factors that include self-concept as an effective students, better acceptance of commitment for one’s own understanding of academic aspects, creativity, openness to studying opportunities, independent in learning, good focus to the future liking of learning, and ability to ability basic learning as well as problem-solving skills.

The higher scores that tend to show up from the scale while it is being used would reflect higher willingness to autonomous learning.

Ever since it’s development more than three decades ago, numerous studies have clearly supported its credibility in conducting assessment on self-directed learners. According to Guglielmino and Guglielmino (2003b), “The scale has consistently indicated strong validity in identifying students who are ready for autonomous learning.

However, a recent research carried out by Hoban et al. (2005) disagrees with this observation. The researchers argued that SDLRS cannot truly assess medical students’ self-directed learning, and therefore, there is a need for researchers to develop other methods that would be effective in exploring self-directed learning among English learners.

The other instrument that was used to assess self-directed learning based on online learning practices is Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory (OCLI). This assessment tool was developed by Dr. Oddi in her doctoral dissertation. According to Harvey, Rothman and Fredker (2006), “this is a 24-item 7-point Likert scale which comprises of a number of domains that have been established by factor analysis.”

These factor analyses include cognitive openness/defensiveness, proactive/reactive learning drive, and commitment/aversion to learning. As it would be observed, higher scores reflect various features of an autonomous learner based on the observed variables.

Sample / Population

The subjects used in this research were undergraduate students undertaking reading and writing lessons at the university. The students came from two different faculties and were combined to form a total of 50 study subjects.

All of them agreed to take part in the exercise which aimed to examine how each of the two categories of learners would perform academically when exposed to different instructional methods or learning environments.

For the purpose of the study, a section of the subjects were exposed to web-based learning practices apart from the normal teacher-induced interventions while the rest were subjected to normal learning practices only. The outcomes for both groups will be assessed later on based on their performances in the chosen courses.

The instruments used for this study are tools that are mainly used in the assessment of self-managed learning among learners, as it is determined by various learning settings. These instruments include Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) and Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory (OCLI).

The targeted courses were increased in content so as to completely cover the situational aspects. Ten courses were chosen for the treatment and control in an equal manner. Within these settings, persons in every section took identical testing. In this regard, teachers would not be able to tell which of these parts were the controls and which ones were the treatments.

Study Limitations

Similarity or the identical nature of the featured population was the main limitation for the research. Previous studies that have been conducted in the institution had shown that the demographics of the learners did not actually represent traditional students owing to a number of reasons.

For instance, a considerable portion of the population comprised of married people, and none showed any signs of deformities. The outcomes of the study are not likely to go beyond this observation. Nevertheless, this similarity issue offers a strong scientific control of the study’s credibility.

Research Design

An approach comprising of both qualitative and quantitative models was applied in this particular research. Here, the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale and Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory were used to measure the study aspects based on the variables being observed. For all participants, academic performance was tracked throughout the study period using appropriate approaches.

Research procedures

I made arrangements to meet the people in-charge of the various sectors in the institution to draw the necessary plans and requirements ahead of the exercise. Some of the key people here were lecturers and head of departments for various academic units in the school, who were crucial in helping me make with relevant arrangements in regard with the research.

This was also important since it would help us design the research timeline where all the necessary requirements will be put into consideration, thus ensuring that the exercise did not interfere with the normal operations of the institution. These people were also responsible in selecting instructors who would serve as representatives in the featured faculties within the institution.

I took some time to approach the selected instructors prior to the exercise to update them on their task in the study and request them to present any kind of information that can be of significance to the study. Having settled matters with the instructors, I went round the academy in some randomly selected classrooms to meet the participants about the expected exercise and get their consent to proceed with the study.

The instructors took their time to encourage the participants to take part in the exercise without any fear, since everything was under control and participation was designed to be voluntary and confidential. Just before the exercise begun, I sent acknowledgement messages to the subjects via email expressing my gratitude to them for their willingness to take part in the study exercise.

Both SDLRS and OCLI instruments were changed into formats that are compatible to computer language and posted to the school’s intranet where they will be accessible to each and every participant. As the exercise begun, a random sample of 25 treatment group and 25 control group got notifications informing them to complete the surveys on the two assessment equipments.

This exercise was repeated in the last two weeks of the seminar, thus offering a pretest and posttest assessment. A period of sixteen weeks between the tests was appropriate, since it offered a good gap that would help to eradicate any possibility of biased observations in the study outcomes.

However, some learners had left the institution before the end of the season without completing the posttest as a result of various reasons, thus yielding 18 control and 23 treatment group learners. Technology-Mediated Instructional Strategy (TMIS) was send to treatment group learners via email. The TMIS was designed to guide the participants to extra content that would be relevant to the study requirements.

This will also lead the participants to the next step of Self-Directed Learning survey. Students’ participation in the exercise was monitored through the self-direct learning survey.

Participants from the two categories would fill up the Instructional Materials Motivation Survey (IMMS) and the Course Interest Survey (CIS) to be able to identify the current measures of performance. Finally, academic performance was quantified for each participant using course aggregate points.

Results and Discussion

Quantitative research outcomes observed in this study indicated that there were significant variations in academic performance between those learners who utilized computer-aided instructional approaches as a supplementary instructional method and those who used the normal teaching and learning practices only. There was also a big difference in motivation as it was proved by the IMMS and the CIS.

As it was observed, changes in the scores reflected in the testing equipments were higher for treatment group learners than for control group learners. The strategies were perceived in a mixture of positive and negative feedbacks from the learners, whereby the majority were highly impressed. Most of the negativities expressed touched on the technologies, which were observed to have had problems in the course of the exercise.

However, I was able to help the students resolve most of the big issues which they faced during the exercise through various mediums of communication.

More importantly, the learners, particularly those who had had minimal access to computer-based learning technologies previously, expressed their concerns that they wanted more interactivity and that there was a need for the institution to establish instructional practices that will make the learning experiences more fun to them.

Conclusions

This study was able to prove the hypothesis that self-directed learning based on online practice will tend to have some significant effects on English learners. As it is shown in this study, well designed technology-mediated instructional strategies such as online learning can be effective ways of improving performance on self-directed English learners.

Further, as it has been shown in the study, both SDLRS and OCLI are effective assessment models that can be used to measure the relationship which exists between various instructional strategies and the academic performance of self-directed learners.

However, there is need for further study in this particular field to portray the impact that some instructional strategies will tend to have on people’s performances and also try to assess the techniques presented in this research in the context of a different population.

Recommendations

There is no doubt that the global educational sector is currently witnessing rampant developments following the introduction of distance education, which is intended to promote educational values through technology-mediated instructional strategies.

In this regard, it will be necessary for educators and learners to introduce more effective ways of integrating web-based practices and other forms of modern technologies into self-managed learning. This, however, is an assuring way through which more distance learning programs can be established in the world.

This is important, considering the fact that the development of numerous distance education plans using computer-mediated learning triggers new research and perception on how technology can be used to promote self-directed learning.

Finally, approaches for people to quantify the effectiveness of autonomous learning will also have to be improved using modern approaches. Some of the most effective approaches that can be used for in-depth analysis of instructional strategies on self-directed learning are as follows:-

  1. The use of newly-developed measurement tools such as Bartlett-Kotrlik Inventory of Self Learning as a supplement for SDLRS and OCLI. Bartlett-Kotrlik Inventory is more advanced in all aspects and this makes it more effective when it comes to assessment purposes. For example, the scale has environmental and social variables that are missing in SDLRS and OCLI.
  2. The application of qualitative research model along quantitative research model. Unlike quantitative research which is widely used in most research settings, qualitative research is not commonly utilized by researchers, regardless of it being an effective research model. In this regard, there is a need for researchers to combine the two models so as to achieve desirable outcomes in the study of aspects associated with self-directed learning.
  3. Using meta-analysis approaches to observe the effect of autonomous learning on the academic performance of students in a web-based learning setting. This can be achieved through statistical approaches where quantitative approaches have failed to give the desired results in the study.

References

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