What Motivates Students in the Online Communication Classroom? An Exploration of Self-Determination Theory

Laura Jacobi, Minnesota State University, Mankato


The purpose of this study was to examine instructional strategies used to motivate students to engage in online communication courses. Eighteen undergraduate students, seven graduate students, and ten faculty members were interviewed individually or in small focus groups. Results indicate the significance of instructional strategies that promote autonomy, perceived competence, and relatedness in motivating students. Two instructional strategies that promote autonomy (i.e., conveying choice in instructional language and validating negative feelings associated with arduous or tedious tasks) were not discussed by participants in this study, which poses interesting challenges for instructors. The results reveal the utility of Self-Determination Theory in aiding contemporary scholars in understanding the particular needs of online learners and the distinct challenges for today’s teachers.


motivation; Self-Determination Theory; online learning; online communication courses; instructional strategies

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