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Reexamining the Nature of Learner Control: Dimensionality and Effects on Learning and Training Reactions



The purpose of this study was to advance learner control as a psychological construct by reexamining its dimensionality and effects on learning and reactions in the context of technology-delivered training.


Learners (n=384) completed a 2-h web-based Microsoft Excel training. The amount of instructional and scheduling control was manipulated in order to introduce variance in control perceptions. Outcome measures included off-task attention, declarative knowledge, and training reactions.


Learner control is a multidimensional construct with differential effects on training outcomes. By focusing on learners’ perceptions of control, we found that instructional control perceptions decreased learning by increasing off-task attention, while scheduling control perceptions increased learning.


Though both dimensions of perceived learner control are positively related to training reactions, they differentially predict learning. Combined with factor analytic evidence, our study suggests that learner control research should differentiate between objective and perceived learner control, and between instructional and scheduling control perceptions. Organizations should consider how learner control affects learning prior to designing training.


Scheduling control is an often used but rarely researched form of learner control. We address this gap by expanding the construct domain of learner control to include scheduling control. Further, this study provides the first empirical examination of learner control perceptions. Despite calls for learner control literature to differentiate between objective and perceived control, no study had previously examined control perceptions directly. Our results may be used to inform organizational decisions regarding the amount and type of control included in training.

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  1. Modification indices suggested the potential for correlated errors in the measurement model (e.g., between two items measuring off-task attention). We chose not to include these in the model.


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The authors are grateful to Andrew Thal, Benjamin Granger, Caner Bozat, Jaclyn Menendez, Kanjie Diao, and S. Imran Saqib for their assistance with data collection and study design. N. Sharon Hill, Katherine Ely, Adam Kanar, Kyle Emich, Frederick Oswald, and two anonymous reviewers provided insightful feedback and suggestions on previous drafts of this article.

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Correspondence to Michael N. Karim.

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Karim, M.N., Behrend, T.S. Reexamining the Nature of Learner Control: Dimensionality and Effects on Learning and Training Reactions. J Bus Psychol 29, 87–99 (2014).

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  • E-learning
  • Distributed learning environments
  • Off-task attention
  • Perceived control
  • Training reactions
  • Web-based training