"Modality motivation: Selection effects and motivational differences in students who choose to take courses online"
Rutherford is an Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences in the University of Delaware School of Education. Her recent NSF-funded research examines students’ in-the-moment motivations and emotions as they work within a digital mathematics learning tool. For her doctoral work she specialized in Learning, Cognition, and Development. Professor Michael E. Martinez served as her advisor. Rutherford also holds a J.D. from Boston University School of Law, and a B.A. in Elementary Education with a concentration in Computers in the Classroom from Florida International University.
Rodriguez’s research foci include using learning analytics to better understand student achievement in technology-enhanced and online STEM courses; using cognitive theories of learning to understand how students study, and whether using effective study strategies (spacing, self-testing) promotes learning in STEM courses; and understanding college students’ critical thinking abilities, especially in the context of reading misleading and fake news. Previously, Rodriguez was a postdoctoral scholar in the Digital Learning Lab, managing the NSF-funded project, Investigating Virtual Learning Environments. Before joining UC Irvine, he worked at WestEd helping schools make data-driven decisions that improved learning outcomes in classrooms.
We demonstrate how motivational and behavioral processes can explain which students may be more likely to select into online (OL) than face-to-face (F2F) courses and also less likely to perform well in OL courses. University students (n = 999) reported their reasons for OL course selection: university constraints, specific need for flexibility, general preference for flexibility, and learning preferences. Compared to F2F students, only OL students with certain self-selection reasons showed differences in motivation, behavior, and performance. Notably, OL students who said they had a specific need for flexibility created by the costs of competing responsibilities spent more time on non-academic activities (e.g., working, commuting), less time on academic activities (e.g., study groups), and ultimately performed worse when compared to F2F peers. These students were especially likely to be women, older, and part-time. We discuss implications for practice and for using demographic characteristics to control for selection effects.