Scholarly article on topic 'Interactions of Students’ Personality in the Online Learning Environment'

Interactions of Students’ Personality in the Online Learning Environment Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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{"online learning" / "general and social self efficacy" / "locus of control" / introversion-extroversion / "cognitive style" / university}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Mariela Pavalache-Ilie, Sorin Cocorada

Abstract In the connectivist theory learning is perceived as a special bond between the learner, other people or groups and the online learning media. The present article aims to investigate the relations between some of the student's personality characteristics (general and social self-effectiveness, locus of control, introversion-extraversion, and cognitive style) and some dimensions of online learning (preferred learning methods, CMC, student's needs, relations with the teacher and classmates). The obtained data can fundament proper didactic principle solutions for projecting and organising the learning process, as well as for the assessment of the students’ satisfaction.

Academic research paper on topic "Interactions of Students’ Personality in the Online Learning Environment"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 128 (2014) 117 - 122

EPC-TKS 2013

Interactions of students' personality in the online learning

environment

Mariela Pavalache-Iliea*, Sorin Cocoradaa

_aTransilvania University of Brasov, 29, B-dul Eroilor, Brasov, 500036, Romania_

Abstract

In the connectivist theory learning is perceived as a special bond between the learner, other people or groups and the online learning media. The present article aims to investigate the relations between some of the student's personality characteristics (general and social self-effectiveness, locus of control, introversion-extraversion, and cognitive style) and some dimensions of online learning (preferred learning methods, CMC, student's needs, relations with the teacher and classmates). The obtained data can fundament proper didactic principle solutions for projecting and organising the learning process, as well as for the assessment of the students' satisfaction.

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti, Education Sciences Department.

Key words: online learning, general and social self efficacy, locus of control, introversion-extroversion, cognitive style, university

1. Introduction

In order to understand the core of collaborative learning in an online environment, Siemens (2005) proposed a new theory of learning, called connectivism, specific to the digital age. As opposed to other learning theories, connectivism emphasizes the link between the learner and various knowledge sources: other people, groups sharing the same interests, the internet and learning management systems. The new theory tries to surpass behaviourism, constuctivism and socio-constructivism, the theory of information processing, via inclusion. Learning effectiveness shall thus turn into a function of the three entities and of their inter-relations, in a didactic approach centred on the student, the essential element being 'the one who studies'. In the present article, the research shall focus on the person who studies as a central element of connectivism, and the conducted study will be a correlational one. From

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +4-072-111-7315 E-mail address: mariela.pavalache@unitbv.ro

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti, Education Sciences Department. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.128

the perspective of the learner's personality, the introversion-extraversion, cognitive styles, critical thinking dispositions, special needs, sensing and thinking, the knowledge, the academic performance and the level of satisfaction have been analysed in the online medium.

The obtained data suggest that the introverts prefer to learn and contribute to an online discussion forum while the extroverts would rather take part in the face to face classroom environment. The introverts found the asynchronous communications are less threatening than the face-to-face communications because they have more time for reflection (Downing, 2010; Irani, Telg, Scherler & Harrington, 2003; Taylor, 1998). On the other hand, the extraverts preferred to connect directly with others in face-to-face environment and they interacted significantly more in threaded discussions than introverts (Russell, 2002).

The student's learning style or cognitive styles may be a more important aspect in online than in traditional classroom education and in academic performances (Battalio, 2009; Cocorada, Scutaru, Pavalache-Ilie., Cocorada, 2008; Liu & Ginther, 1999). Other studies do not identify such relations, stating that some students have a greater capacity to adapt to different learning environments (Aragon, Johnson & Shaik, 2002). Other learning style/cognitive models, without Kolb learning style, reveal more significant results for the online learning environment: the reflective-active, independent-dependent and global-analytic styles (Astolfi, 1987). The field independent students are more efficient in search-and-navigation tasks, but the field dependent students feel disoriented in hypermedia environments (DeTure, 2004). These dependent learners may be less successful in online instruction environments than in classroom environments because the online learning is an open learning environment (Chen, 2002). The reflective learners were more successful in their interactive Web environment and preferred working alone than were active learners (Battalio, 2009). Some studies found that the relationship found between the cognitive style and academic success is ambiguous and the cognitive styles were poor predictors of the students' success in online distance education courses (DeTure, 2004). The self-efficacy, as an important learners' characteristic, was a poor predictor of student success in online distance education courses (DeTure, 2004). The students with a field independent style tended to have higher self-efficacy with online technology but they did not receive better grades than those students who were field dependent and had lower self-efficacy. Concerning the locus of control, some papers found that being an active student in one's education, as the introverts, correlate with academic success (Dollinger, 2000) and suggested that learners with an internal locus of control should prefer environments that maximise their degree of control (Ishiyama , McClure, Hart, & Amico. 1999).

2. Research Methodology

The objective of this study is to investigate the relations between intelligence, the student's personality traits (general and social self-efficacy, locus of control, introversion-extroversion, and cognitive style) and some dimensions of online learning. The sample is a convenience one, the participants study engineering in the electronic field, 68.6% being first year students and 31.2% being second year students. 78% of the sample is represented by boys.

The research hypotheses were the following: H1. The personal needs concerning the learning process vary depending on the locus of control. H2. Students presenting high levels of intelligence prefer complex teaching-learning methods. H3. The configurations of the online learning dimensions are different for the introverts and extraverts and for the levels of general and/or social effectiveness.

H4. Students having different cognitive styles will tackle online learning in different ways.

In order to validate the hypotheses 5 instruments were applied at the end of the first semester, during the lectures, after having obtained the students' permission. The used instruments were:

• The Online Learning Questionnaire (QLLQ) investigates the dimensions of learning in the online environment (teaching-learning methods, CMC, student's needs, his relations with teachers and colleagues, the type of help expected);

• Intelligence test B 53, a performance test, saturated in factor G, relevant in the learning of technical disciplines;

• the E-Rot scale, called Locus of control and the subscale of introversion-extraversion, elaborated by Eysenck (adapted from Bouvard, 2002);

• The cognitive style inventory, adapted by the research authors from De Vecchi (1999) having the following dimensions: dependent-independent (Witkin & Goodenough, 1977, cf. Messick, 1996), reflective-active (Kagan, cf. Messick, 1996), consumer-productive (Gouzien, 1991), sharpeners-levellers (Klein, 1951, cf. Messick, 1996).

3. Research Results

3.1. Psychometric qualities of the OLLQ questionnaire

The Online Learning Questionnaire (QLLQ) is built by a team of one of the authors' (Scutaru, Pavalache, & Cocorada, 2007). It is a closed questionnaire and the items included in the factorial analysis are measured on interval scales. The exploratory factorial analysis has identified 6 factors which explain 43.7% of the variance. Only the items having a saturation of over .300 have were retained and after the logical analysis the factors were named as follows: Teaching-learning methods used in the online environment (F1 comprising 6 items) Computer mediated communication -CMC (F2 comprising 4 items) Type of help expected by the student (F3 comprising 4 items) Relations with the teacher (F4 comprising 6 items), Student's learning needs (F5 comprising 7 items) and Collaborative learning/Relations with the classmates (F5 comprising 6 items). Weak correlations were obtained between the 6 factors, which were nevertheless significant at a threshold of less than .05 (with r ranging between .171 and .296). Consequently, one can state that there is no multicollinearity.

3.2. Sample description

The participants were 175 students, the boys representing 78% of the subjects. 58.5% were aged under 20, 40.9% were aged between 20 and 25. The personality trait scores are almost entirely distributed according to the normal curve, as well as the cognitive styles, where the mixed ones prevail (Table 1). A difference in point of gender and year of study is noted. The descriptive statistics for the entire sample provide the following data: locus of control m= 11.49, g=3.02, extraversion m= 14.58, g=3.72 general intelligence m=37.15, g=6.59, general self-efficacy m= 61.58 g=7.8, social self-efficacy m=20.03, o=3.48 and self-efficacy total m=81.61, g=9.79. Due to the fact that cognitive styles are not disjunctive, the participants may be characterised by all 4 styles, being distributed in one of the three classes according to the obtained scores (Table 1).

The gender analysis shows that the girls declare themselves to be far more introvert than the boys (t=2.56, sig.=.011), and the boys score significantly higher in the IQ test (t=2.68, sig.=.008). As far as the other dimensions are concerned (locus of control, self-effectiveness and cognitive styles) the registered differences between the groups are not statistically significant. The analysis based on the year of study variable shows statistically significant differences only as far as the teaching-learning methods in the online environment are concerned. As compared to the second year of study, more first year students opt for animated schemes (t=2.31, sig=.001), whereas second year students prefer case studies (t=4.59, sig=.02).

Table 1. Share of the cognitive styles within the sample

Cognitive Style 1 % Cognitive Style 2 % Cognitive Style 3 % Cognitive Style 4 %

Cognitive style Field Independent 27.4 Consumer 26.2 Leveller 10.4 Reflexive 28.7

classes Neutral 62.2 Medium 48.2 Medium 58.9 Medium 51.2

Field Dependent 10.4 Producer 25.6 Sharpener 30.7 Active 20.1

3.3. Hypotheses validation

The validation of the hypotheses shall be done in the order in which they were stated, whereas the discussions will be dealt with in the next section. The data obtained for each hypothesis shall be briefly described.

H1. The students having an internal locus of control express fewer personal needs concerning the learning process as compared to the students who have an external locus of control. The test conducted between the extreme

classes of the scores (m-o) and (m+o) shows statistically significant differences only for F5 Personal learning needs.

H2. The students with the higher score in B53 prefer the project as a learning method, having both a theoretical and a practical component (r=.383, p= .001) and they reject the exclusive assessment of theoretical knowledge (r = -.217, p= .001).

H3. The configurations of the online learning dimensions are different for the introverts and extraverts and for the students presenting different levels of self-efficacy. The hypothesis is confirmed for collaborative learning (F6) and personal needs concerning the learning process (F5). The extraverts appreciate group work, collaborating with classmates, whereas the introverts need more guidance from the teacher. The higher the level of extraversion, the lower the need to get help from the teacher (r=-.201, p=.01). The introverts reject group work due to the fact that in a face to face environment they feel far more disturbed by the presence of other colleagues as compared to the extraverts, and in the online environment they miss face to face feedback from the teacher (t=2.38, sig=.019). Internalist students tend to be more experienced in using the internet as compared to the externalist ones (t=1.83, sig=.069), but they state, unlike the externalist students that the time spent with the teacher is too little (t=2.7, sig=.008).

The learning factors are associated to the level of self-efficacy, but statistically significant correlations were obtained only for the social self-efficacy which is positively associated to the orientation towards collaborative learning (F6) (r=.176, p=.023) and negatively associated to the disadvantages of Computer-mediated communication (r=-.233, p=.007). Students presenting a low level of self-efficacy prefer Computer Mediated Communication, probably, because they can learn anytime, it is easy to find older messages and they use the direct feedback given by the computer. The level of self-efficacy varies according to the cognitive independence-dependence criteria: independent students present higher levels of self-efficacy, which is identified using independent samples Kruskal-Wallis test (t=6.81, sig.=.03).

H4. The approach of online learning is influenced by the students' cognitive styles. In our study, 3 score classes were built for every one of the dimensions independent-dependent, reflexive-active/impulsive, producer-consumer and leveller-sharpener (Table 1). An in-depth analysis suggests the existence of some delicate differences in the approach of online learning, depending on the cognitive styles of the students, as noted in table 2.

Table 2. Independent-samples Kruskal-Wallis for the cognitive styles and some characteristics of online learning

Cognitive style Item Statistic Test Asymptotic sig. (2-sided test)

Use of games related to the taught subject. 6.60 .037

Producer-consumer Needs to contact other colleagues in order to study. 6.97 .031

Needs to contact the teacher in order to learn. 9.45 .009

Appreciates time and space independence while studying. 7.83 .02

Reflective-active Wants to redo some tasks until he understands the subject. 8.78 .047

Wants to have extra explanations from the teacher. 7.04 .03

Wants to redo some tasks until he understands the subject. 8.65 .013

Sharpener-leveller While within a group he appreciates the existence of various ideas which could help him in the learning process. 7.24 .027

Field independent -dependent Appreciates time and space independence while studying. Gets easily informed by using web links. 13.19 7.01 .001 .03

The Kruskal-Wallis independent samples show a statistically significant difference (t=8.154, sig.=.017) for the students that have a sharpening learning style as compared to the ones that have a levelling learning style as far as the relations with the teacher are concerned, for all 3 score classes. The extreme groups (1 and 3) of the reflective-active style differ themselves in the same point, relations with the teacher (t=2.14, sig.=.036).

4. Discussions and conclusions

The article presents a correlational study which focuses on the learner's characteristics when associated to the online learning environment dimensions. The locus of control, introversion-extraversion, self-efficacy, abstract intelligence and cognitive styles were measured. The Rotter inventory, the self-efficacy and the B53 scores are

normally distributed, but the EPI inventory indicates the predominance of extravert (57.9%) and ambivert (35.1%) people. In the studied sample, students having mixed, neutral cognitive styles prevail.

As far as online learning factors are concerned, girls tend to ask for the teacher's help more than the boys, first year students opt for animated schemes whereas second year students prefer case studies, simulations and more complex learning techniques, which marks a shift from the traditional and teacher-directed approaches (Kim, 2011). In the studied sample, most students would rather work alone (37% of the first year students) and 44.6% of the second year students, fact which does not favour collaborative learning which is specific to the online environment. The increase of 7.6% registered in one year is relatively encouraging, considering that in the Romanian pre-college teaching system, group work is only scarcely used (Scutaru, Pavalache& Cocorada, 2007).

The hypothesis according to which the configuration of online learning factors are different for the introverts and extraverts is confirmed: the first need better guidance from the teacher as compared to their extrovert colleagues, while the latter appreciate working with others and use games to learn. The introverts disapprove of collaborative learning in the online environment because they lack face to face feedback from the teacher. They prefer the online environment when they work alone and can conduct experiments and solve the assigned tasks in their own rhythm, as suggested by other studies (Funaro & Montell, 1999). In the given conditions, the role of the teacher will be to implement proper rules for the communication between the students and for their diversity of needs.

Due to the fact that the online environment is an open one, field dependent students might feel disoriented (DeTure, 2004). Learners having highly reflective styles ask for more explanations from the teacher, want to establish stronger connections with him, they redo tasks and repeat some of the applications until they are certain all is properly understood, and they request further explanations when necessary. Field independent students, as well as the active ones appreciate computer-mediated communication more than the field dependent ones, particularly for the flexibility, shown towards time and space and for the ease of access to information via web links. The students having a productive cognitive style use games in the learning process more than the consumer students, they introduce changes to bond with their colleagues and teachers.

The teacher's information about learners' characteristics has implications on selecting the teaching strategies, coping with the necessity of differentiating to the point of personalising the online environment, depending on the locus of control, self-efficacy level, introversion-extraversion, cognitive style. The complexity of the pedagogical approach of learning is equally influenced by the relatively large number of students (44%) who state that they need the assistance of another person in the learning process. Most of these students are freshmen, the need to be assisted being most likely associated to the difficulties of adapting to the academic environment. In the case of field dependent students, who are introverted and have external locus of control the teacher will insure scaffolding, will promote self-reliance and help the student to become more self-directed.

The inclusion of the cognitive styles in learning profiles, which would be possible by searching the significant relations between them, may constitute an important step in grouping the students who share similar traits (Cocorada et al., 2008). Although it complies to the principle of individual differences, one of the 7 principles of governing effective use of multimedia (Mayer, 2001), strict adaptation to the learner's characteristics is difficult, it raises online system administration issues, or learning materials design issues (Allen, Bourhis, Burrell, & Mabry, 2002).

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