Autonomy Support for Online Students


Despite the rapid growth of online learning in higher education, the dropout rates for online courses has reached 50 percent. Lack of student engagement rank as a critical reason for frequent online course dropout. This article discusses autonomy support as a strategy to enhance online students’ intrinsic motivation and engagement. Drawing from current theories and research, three guidelines are offered to provide choices, rationale behind why assignments are designed in particular ways, and flexibility in completing more personally meaningful assignments. Each guideline is accompanied with examples from existing higher education courses. This article is intended for educators and designers of online learning to employ autonomy support strategies to engage students in active participation and successful completion of the course.

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Correspondence to Eunbae Lee.

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Lee, E., Pate, J.A. & Cozart, D. Autonomy Support for Online Students. TECHTRENDS TECH TRENDS 59, 54–61 (2015).

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  • autonomy support
  • engagement
  • higher education
  • online learning
  • self determination theory