Differences in Self-Regulation for Online Learning between First- and Second-Generation College Students

Peter E. Williams
Chan M. Hellman


Self-regulation is generally accepted as an important construct in student success within environments that allow learner choice, such as online courses. The purpose of the current study was to investigate differences between first- and second-generation college students' ability to self-regulate their online learning. An ANCOVA, with comfort level using the computer as a control, provided evidence that first-generation students report significantly lower levels of self-regulation for online learning than their second-generation counterparts.


First-generation, Self-regulation, Self-regulated, Online, Online learning, Web based instruction.


Williams and Hellman (2004) rely heavily on the self-regulation literature to motivate this study. In doing so, they argue that there is little evidence on the difference between first and second-generation college students' ability to self-regulate within an asynchronous learning environment. As such, the authors survey 708 students enrolled in an online course, of which nearly 40 percent were first-gen. They then rely on the Multi-Dimensional Self-Efficacy Scales of Bandura (1989) to assess self-regulation behaviors. When compared to second-gen students, the authors find that first-gen students have lower self-regulation skills necessary to be successful in online courses. The authors call on faculty to assess the arrangement and construction of their online courses that encourage and support self-regulation.

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