Student motivation to participate in asynchronous online discussions

Michelle L. Nelson, Kristy Oden, Laura L. Williams


Participation in online learning environments, especially in asynchronous discussions, is a crucial component for student engagement in online learning. Learner motivation is associated with student success in the online learning environment. Intrinsic motivation, doing something because it is enjoyable or interesting, is associated with participation in discussion topic choices. External demands, both work and personal, can also affect a student’s intrinsic motivation through altering their control. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between motivating factors and student participation in online asynchronous discussions. Post-licensure undergraduate (RN-BSN/RN-MSN) and graduate (MSN) students (N = 350) were distributed an online anonymous survey consisting of ten questions. A response rate of 20% (N = 69) was achieved, with 49% MSN (graduate) students (n = 33) and 51% RN-BSN/RN-MSN (undergraduate) students (n = 36), participating in the survey. Seventy-nine percent of students were employed full-time. Graduate students (65%) and undergraduate students (49%) felt that their motivation to participate in discussions was related to their employment status. Seventy-nine percent of MSN students and 63% of undergraduate students reported that the current demands in their life affected their motivation to participate in online discussions. The majority of students felt that instructor participation in the discussion had no effect on their motivation to participate. When classified into undergraduate and graduate groups, graduate nursing students preferred a choice of discussion topics in which to participate (χ2 = 10.851, p = .004). Providing students with discussion topic choices is associated with intrinsic motivation and increased online discussion participation.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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