Exploring how enrolling in an online organic chemistry preparation course relates to students’ self-efficacy

  • Ninger ZhouEmail author
  • Christian Fischer
  • Fernando Rodriguez
  • Mark Warschauer
  • Susan King


Self-efficacy has a strong influence on the learning and motivation of science students at the postsecondary level, especially in upper division science classes, which are key to student success in science majors. This empirical mixed methods research study (N = 205) examines the associations between students’ participation in an online preparation course and student self-efficacy in organic chemistry. Qualitative content analysis indicated that students benefited from the online preparatory course in the subsequent organic chemistry course series. The analysis of students’ clickstream data indicated that students with self-efficacy ratings in the top 10th percentile exhibited more frequent and consistent engagement with relevant course materials compared to students in the bottom 10th percentile. Notably, linear regression models indicated that participation in the online preparatory course was associated with higher long-term self-efficacy for first-generation college students. These results suggest that online preparatory courses may benefit some students’ self-efficacy in demanding science courses.


Self-efficacy Higher education Distance education Gateway courses Science education 



This work is supported by the National Science Foundation through the EHR Core Research Program (Award 1535300) and the UCI Teaching and Learning Research Center. Also, we would like to thank the student research assistants, Lizethe Arce, Andrea Marella and Yucheng Zhu, who contributed to the data coding of the qualitative part of the analysis. The views contained in this article are those of the authors and not of their institutions or the National Science Foundation.


Funding was provided by Directorate for Education and Human Resources (Grant No. 1535300).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Hector Research Institute of Education Sciences and PsychologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Department of ChemistryUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA

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