Bissessar, Black & Boolaky

The H.E.R.O.s of Online Education: What makes students succeed despite the odds?

Charmaine S. G. Bissessar, University of Guyana
Debra Black, University of Liverpool Online
Mehraz Boolaky, University of Lincoln


The study of psychological capital (PsyCap) is prevalent in organizations globally and is part of the movement towards attaining positive organizational behavior. This concept is slowly being transferred to the education realm with teachers becoming more mindful of students’ inner H. E. R. O. (Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, and Optimism). Little research, however, has been conducted upon the PsyCap of university students in fully online programs. The purpose of this study was to determine what aspects of students’ psychological capital lead to success despite adversity. An exploratory qualitative methodology was used to interview five participants from the United States, Canada, Africa, France, and Serbia in order to determine whether or not PsyCap influenced their drive to complete their online graduate programs of study at the University of Liverpool. This convenience sample yielded compelling results for future research and indicated similarities in hope and efficacy as well as differences in gender regarding participant resilience and approach to challenges. Further research is needed to determine whether gender does play a critical role in online students’ PsyCap, especially resilience. Another revealing result was that the participants credited their online instructors for motivating and discouraging them based on their feedback, grading, and overall communication. This points to a possible relationship between the students’ PsyCap and the three online teaching presences in communities of inquiry (cognitive, teaching, and social).

Keywords: psychological capital, PsyCap, hope, efficacy, resilience, optimism, online students, Community of Inquiry (COI).

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