Maximizing E-learning ROI: Intrinsic Goal Orientation


As discussed in the last post, intrinsic goal orientation is another motivational factor that tends to play a significant role in online learning environments.

Intrinsic motivation refers to one’s tendency “…to be participating in a task for reasons such as challenge, curiosity, and mastery” (Pintrich, 1990, p. 10). Intrinsic goal orientation is an important component of self-regulated learning as it is strongly associated with deep learning in students (Yukselturk & Bulut, 2007).  Intrinsic goal orientation also helps cognitive resources to reorganize knowledge, hence making it more meaningful for students (Chyung et al., 2010).  Therefore students with high intrinsic motivation are significantly more likely to be successful than students with low intrinsic motivation (Lepper et al., 2005; Lin et al., 2003; Pintrich, 2004; Yukselturk & Bulut, 2007).

In a study by Lin et al. (2003), the findings revealed that intrinsic motivation was a strong predictor of students’ final grades.  Similarly, Lepper et al. (2005) found a significant relationship between students’ intrinsic motivation and their academic performance as measured by their GPA.

Although intrinsic motivation has been studied extensively in traditional settings, very little research has been conducted on the role of intrinsic goal orientation in online learning environments. Yukselturk and Bulut (2007) investigation is among the few studies that examined the relationship between intrinsic goal orientation and students’ academic performance in online courses.  Eighty students were instructed to complete the necessary questionnaires at the end of the university course.  The findings revealed that intrinsic goal orientation was significantly associated with students’ academic performance in their course.

More recently, Radovan (2011) investigated the relationship between different dimensions of self-regulation and academic performance in online students. MSLQ was selected as the primary instrument for this study. With regards to motivation, students having high levels of intrinsic goal orientation were more likely to be academically successful than students having low levels of intrinsic goal orientation.

Some findings also suggest that intrinsic goal orientation is significantly associated with other dimensions of self-regulated learning such as participation in online environments.  For example, a recent study by Xie, Durrington, and Yen (2011) illustrated that students with high levels of intrinsic motivation were more likely to use the online resources and participate in online discussions during a 16-week college online course than students with lower levels of intrinsic goal orientation.

A self-regulatory dimension that is closely associated with intrinsic goal orientation is students’ level of help-seeking, which has been shown to play an important role in online learning environments (Kitsantas and Chow, 2007). The next post will examine the role of ‘help-seeking’ in online learning environments.


Kitsantas, A., & Chow, A. (2007). College students’ perceived threat and preference for seeking help in traditional, distributed, and distance learning environments. Computers & Education, 48, 383-395.

Lepper, M. R., Corpus, J. H., & Iyengar, S. S. (2005). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation orientations in the classroom: Age differences and academic correlates. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 184–196.

Lin, Y. G., McKeachie, W. J., & Kim, Y. C. (2003). College student intrinsic and/or extrinsic motivation and learning. Learning and Individual Differences, 13, 251-258.

Pintrich, P. R., & De Groot, E. V.  (1990).  Motivational and self-regulated learning components of classroom academic performance.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 33-40.

Pintrich, P. R. (2004). A conceptual framework for assessing motivation and self-regulated learning in college students. Educational Psychology Review, 16, 385-407.

Radovan, M. (2011). The relation between distance students’ motivation, their use of learning strategies, and academic success. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10, 216-222.

Xie, K., Durrington, V., & Yen, L. L. (2011). Relationship between students’ motivation and their participation in asynchronous online discussions. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7, 17-29.

Yukselturk, E. & Bulut, S. (2007). Predictors for Student Success in an Online Course. Educational Technology & Society, 10 (2), 71-83.


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