Engagement in Online Learning Through the Lens of Adults' Learning Experience

Keywords: learner engagement, online education, learning experience, adult education, lifelong learning


The article aims to critically examine the role of engagement in the study of the educational experiences of adult learners in online learning. The authors highlight the existence of a gap between the nature of adult educational experiences and the lens through which these experiences are studied and evaluated. This lens is the learners' engagement. The authors highlight the complexity of the construct of learner engagement and point out the inadequacy of assessing it solely through behavioral markers.

The theoretical framework of the article is the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model for studying the educational experiences of learners in the digital environment, based on the notion of the socially constructed nature of learning. The article shows how the idea of lifelong learning as the formation of a new professional identity of adults is consistent with the idea of an ontological turn in education. By conceptualizing the educational experiences of adults as active participants in the learning process, the authors propose to consider engagement as a characteristic of these experiences. The authors identify external and internal factors of learner engagement. Based on previous research, internal factors are proposed, namely learners’ prior experience, future self-image, and personal goals. External factors are based on the self-determination theory, where the needs for competence and belongingness become particularly salient for engagement in online learning.


Download data is not yet available.


Anderson T., Rourke L., Garrison D.R., Archer W. (2001) Assessing Teaching Presence in a Computer Conferencing Context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, vol. 5, no 2, pp. 1–17. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v5i2.1875

Arbaugh J.B. (2014) System, Scholar or Students? Which Most Influences Online MBA Course Effectiveness? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, vol. 30, no 4, pp. 349–362. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12048

Astin A.W. (1984) Student Involvement: A Developmental Theory for Higher Education. Journal of College Student Personnel, vol. 40, no 5, pp. 518–529.

Azevedo R. (2015) Defining and Measuring Engagement and Learning in Science: Conceptual, Theoretical, Methodological, and Analytical Issues. Educational Psychologist, vol. 50, no 1, pp. 84–94. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2015.1004069

Berry S. (2019) Teaching to Connect: Community-Building Strategies for the Virtual Classroom. Online Learning, vol. 23, no 1, pp. 164–183. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i1.1425

Breslow L., Pritchard D.E., DeBoer J., Stump G.S., Ho A.D., Seaton D.T. (2013) Studying Learning in the Worldwide Classroom Research into edX’s First MOOC. Research & Practice in Assessment, vol. 8, no 1, pp. 13–25.

Cercone K. (2008) Characteristics of Adult Learners with Implications for Online Learning Design. AACE Review (formerly AACE Journal), vol. 16, no 2, pp. 137–159.

Chen C., Sonnert G., Sadler P.M., Sasselov D.D., Fredericks C., Malan D.J. (2020) Going Over the Cliff: MOOC Dropout Behaviour at Chapter Transition. Distance Education, vol. 4, no 1, pp. 6–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2020.1724772

Chiu T.K. (2022) Applying the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to Explain Student Engagement in Online Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, vol. 54, no 1, pp. 14–30. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2021.1891998

Christie H., Tett L., Cree V.E., Hounsell J., Mccune V. (2008) 'A Real Rollercoaster of Confidence and Emotions': Learning to Be a University Student. Studies in Higher Education, vol. 33, no 5, pp. 567–581. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070802373040

Clay M.N., Rowland S., Packard A. (2008) Improving Undergraduate Online Retention through Gated Advisement and Redundant Communication. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, vol. 10, no 1, pp. 93–102. https://doi.org/10.2190%2FCS.10.1.g

Cleary T.J., Zimmerman B.J. (2012) A Cyclical Self-Regulatory Account of Student Engagement: Theoretical Foundations and Applications. Handbook of Research on Student Engagement (eds S. Christenson, A.L. Reschly, C. Wylie), Boston, MA: Springer, pp. 237–257. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-2018-7_11

Dall’Alba G. (2009) Learning Professional Ways of Being: Ambiguities of Becoming. Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol. 41, no 1, pp. 34–45. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2008.00475.x

Deci E.L., Ryan R.M. (1991) A Motivational Approach to Self: Integration in Personality. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation — 1990 (ed. R. Dienstbier), Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska, pp. 237–288.

Dixson M.D. (2015) Measuring Student Engagement in the Online Course: The Online Student Engagement Scale (OSE). Online Learning, vol. 19, no 4, https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v19i4.561

Ferguson R. (2012) Learning Analytics: Drivers, Developments and Challenges. International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, vol. 4, no 5, pp. 304–317. https://doi.org/10.1504/ijtel.2012.051816

Finn J.D. (1989) Withdrawing from School. Review of Educational Research, vol. 59, no 2, pp. 117–142. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543059002117

Fiock H. (2020) Designing a Community of Inquiry in Online Courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, vol. 21, no 1, pp. 135–153. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i5.3985

Fomina T.G., Potanina A.M., Morosanova V.I. (2020) Vzaimosvyaz´ shkol´noy vovlechennosti i samoregulyatsii uchebnoy deyatel´nosti: sostoyanie problemy i perspektivy issledovaniy v Rossii i za rubezhom [The Relationship between School Engagement and Conscious Self-Regulation of Learning Activity: The Current State of the Problem and Research Perspectives in Russia and Abroad]. RUDN Journal of Psychology and Pedagogics, vol. 17, no 3, pp. 390–411. https://doi.org/10.22363/2313-1683-2020-17-3-390-411

Fredricks J.A., Blumenfeld P.C., Paris A.H. (2004) School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research, vol. 74, no 1, pp. 59–109. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543074001059

Fredricks J.A., McColskey W. (2012) The Measurement of Student Engagement: A Comparative Analysis of Various Methods and Student Self-Report Instruments. Handbook of Research on Student Engagement (eds S. Christenson, A.L. Reschly, C. Wylie), New York, NY: Springer, pp. 763–782. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-2018-7_37

Gardner J., Brooks C. (2018) Student Success Prediction in MOOCs. User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction, vol. 28, no 2, pp. 127–203. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11257-018-9203-z

Garrison D.R. (2009) Communities of Inquiry in Online Learning. Encyclopedia of Distance Learning (eds P. Rogers, G. Berg, Yu. Boettcher, C. Howard, L. Justice, K. Schenk), Hershey. PA: IGI Global, pp. 352–355. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8

Garrison D.R., Anderson T., Archer W. (1999) Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, vol. 2, no 2–3, pp. 87–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00016-6

Garrison D.R., Cleveland-Innes M., Fung T.S. (2010) Exploring Causal Relationships among Teaching, Cognitive and Social Presence: Student Perceptions of the Community of Inquiry Framework. The Internet and Higher Education, vol. 13, no 1–2, pp. 31–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.002

Goldstein L.S., Freedman D. (2003) Challenges Enacting Caring Teacher Education. Journal of Teacher Education, vol. 54, no 5, pp. 441–454. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487103259114

Gordeeva T.O., Sychev O.A., Lynch M.F. (2020) The Construct Validity of the Russian Version of the Modified Academic Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ-A) among Elementary and Middle School Children. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, vol. 13, no 3, pp. 16–34. https://doi.org/10.11621/pir.2020.0308

Gordon N. (2014) Flexible Pedagogies: Technology-Enhanced Learning. Heslington York: The Higher Education Academy. https://doi.org/10.13140/2.1.2052.5760

Hakimi L., Eynon R., Murphy V.A. (2021) The Ethics of Using Digital Trace Data in Education: A Thematic Review of the Research Landscape. Review of Educational Research, vol. 91, no 5, pp. 671–717. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543211020116

Henderikx M.A., Kreijns K., Kalz M. (2017) Refining Success and Dropout in Massive Open Online Courses Based on the Intention–Behaviour Gap. Distance Education, vol. 38, no 3, pp. 353–368. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2017.1369006

Henrie C.R., Halverson L.R., Graham C.R. (2015) Measuring Student Engagement in Technology-Mediated Learning: A Review. Computers & Education, vol. 90, December, pp. 36–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2015.09.005

Hew K.F., Cheung W.S. (2014) Students’ and Instructors’ Use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Motivations and Challenges. Educational Research Review, vol. 12, June, pp. 45–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2014.05.001

Huin L., Bergheaud Y., Caron P.A., Codina A., Disson E. (2016) Measuring Completion and Dropout in MOOCs: A Learner-Centred Model. Proceedings of the European Stakeholder Summit on Experiences and Best Practices in and around MOOCs (Graz, Austria, 2016, 22–24 February), pp. 55–67.

Ifenthaler D., Yau J.Y.K. (2020) Utilising Learning Analytics to Support Study Success in Higher Education: A Systematic Review. Educational Technology Research and Development, vol. 68, no 4. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-020-09788-z

Joksimović S., Poquet O., Kovanović V., Dowell N., Mills C., Gašević D., Brooks C. (2018) How Do We Model Learning at Scale? A Systematic Review of Research on MOOCs. Review of Educational Research, vol. 88, no 1, pp. 43–86. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654317740335

Jordan K. (2015) Massive Open Online Course Completion Rates Revisited: Assessment, Length and Attrition. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, vol. 16, no 3, pp. 40–57. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v16i3.2112

Kahu E.R. (2013) Framing Student Engagement in Higher Education. Studies in Higher Education, vol. 38, no 5, pp. 758–773. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2011.598505

Kahu E.R., Stephens C., Leach L., Zepke N. (2013) The Engagement of Mature Distance Students. Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 32, no 5, pp. 791–804. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2013.777036

Kizilcec R.F., Piech C., Schneider E. (2013) Deconstructing Disengagement: Analyzing Learner Subpopulations in Massive Open Online Courses. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge (Leuven, Belgium, 2013, 8–12 April), pp. 170–179. https://doi.org/10.1145/2460296.2460330

Kolb D. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Kuh G.D. (2009) What Student Affairs Professionals Need to Know about Student Engagement. Journal of College Student Development, vol. 50, no 6, pp. 683–704. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.0.0099

Kumar A., Kumar P., Palvia S.C.J., Verma S. (2017) Online Education Worldwide: Current Status and Emerging Trends. Journal of Information Technology Case and Application Research, vol. 19, no 1, pp. 3–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/15228053.2017.1294867

Lam Y.W., Hew K.F., Chiu K.F. (2017) Improving Argumentative Writing: Effects of a Blended Learning Approach and Gamification. Language Learning & Technology, vol. 22, no 1, pp. 97–118. https://doi.org/10125/44583

Lambrev V.S., Cruz B.C. (2021) Becoming Scholarly Practitioners: Creating Community in Online Professional Doctoral Education. Distance Education, vol. 42, no 4, pp. 567–581. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2021.1986374

Lawson M.A., Lawson H.A. (2013) New Conceptual Frameworks for Student Engagement Research, Policy, and Practice. Review of Educational Research, vol. 83, no 3, pp. 432–479. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654313480891

León J., Núñez J.L., Liew J. (2015) Self-Determination and STEM Education: Effects of Autonomy, Motivation, and Self-Regulated Learning on High School Math Achievement. Learning and Individual Differences, vol. 43, September, pp. 156–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2015.08.017

Lim J., Richardson J.C. (2022) Considering How Disciplinary Differences Matter for Successful Online Learning through the Community of Inquiry Lens. Computers & Education, vol. 187, no 2, Article no 104551. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2022.104551

Littlejohn A., Hood N., Milligan C., Mustain P. (2016) Learning in MOOCs: Motivations and Self-Regulated Learning in MOOCs. The Internet and Higher Education, vol. 29, April, pp. 40–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2015.12.003

Maloshonok N.G. (2014) Vovlechennost’ studentov v uchebny protsess v rossiskikh vuzakh [Student Engagement in the Learning Process in Russian Universities]. Vysshee obrazovanie v Rossii / Higher Education in Russia, no 1, pp. 37–44.

Maloshonok N.G., Vilkova K.A. (2022). Izmerenie uchebnoy vovlechennosti studentov kak instrument otsenki kachestva rossijskogo vysshego obrazovaniya [Measuring Student Engagement as a Quality Indicator of Russian Higher Education]. Moscow: HSE. https://doi.org/10.17323/978-5-7598-2644-6

Mayadas A.F., Bourne J., Bacsich P. (2009) Online Education Today. Science, no 323(5910), pp. 85–89. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1168874

Meyer K.A. (2014) Student Engagement in Online Learning: What Works and Why. ASHE Higher Education Report, vol. 40, no 6, pp. 1–114. https://doi.org/10.1002/aehe.20018

Milligan C., Littlejohn A. (2014) Supporting Professional Learning in a Massive Open Online Course. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, vol. 15, no 5, pp. 197–213. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v15i5.1855

Ornelles C., Ray A.B., Wells J.C. (2019) Designing Online Courses in Teacher Education to Enhance Adult Learner Engagement. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, vol. 31, no 3, pp. 547–557.

Oyserman D., Johnson E., James L. (2011) Seeing the Destination But Not the Path: Effects of Socioeconomic Disadvantage on School-Focused Possible Self-Content and Linked Behavioral Strategies. Self and Identity, vol. 10, no 4, pp. 474–492. https://doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2010.487651

Rabin E., Kalman Y.M., Kalz M. (2019) An Empirical Investigation of the Antecedents of Learner-Centered Outcome Measures in MOOCs. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, vol. 16, no 1, pp. 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-019-0144-3

Reeve J. (2013) How Students Create Motivationally Supportive Learning Environments for Themselves: The Concept of Agentic Engagement. Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 105, no 3, 579–595. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032690

Reeve J., Shin S.H. (2020) How Teachers Can Support Students’ Agentic Engagement. Theory into Practice, vol. 59, no 2, pp. 150–161. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2019.1702451

Reich J. (2014) MOOC Completion and Retention in the Context of Student Intent. EDUCAUSE Review Online. Available at: https://er.educause.edu/articles/2014/12/mooc-completion-and-retention-in-the-context-of-student-intent (accessed 10 August 2023).

Rienties B., Beausaert S., Grohnert T., Niemantsverdriet S., Kommers P. (2012) Understanding Academic Performance of International Students: The Role of Ethnicity, Academic and Social Integration. Higher Education, vol. 63, no 6, pp. 685–700. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-011-9468-1

Rienties B., Toetenel L. (2016) The Impact of Learning Design on Student Behaviour, Satisfaction and Performance: A Cross-Institutional Comparison across 151 Modules. Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 60, July, pp. 333–341. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.02.074

Ryan R.M., Deci E.L. (2020) Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation from a Self-Determination Theory Perspective: Definitions, Theory, Practices, and Future Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, vol. 61, Article no 101860. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2020.101860

Schaufeli W.B., Martinez I.M., Pinto A.M., Salanova M., Bakker A.B. (2002) Burnout and Engagement in University Students: A Cross-National Study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, vol. 33, no 5, pp. 464–481. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022102033005003

Schunk D.H., Ertmer P.A. (2000) Self-Regulation and Academic Learning: Self-Efficacy Enhancing Interventions. Handbook of Self-Regulation (eds M. Boekaerts, M. Zeidner, Paul R. Pintrich), San Diego, CA: Academic Press, pp. 631–649. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012109890-2/50048-2

Seligman M., Csikszentmihalyi M. (2000) Positive Psychology: An Introduction. American Psychologist, vol. 55, no 1, pp. 5–14. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.5

Semenova T.V., Rudakova L.M. (2015) Bar´ery pri prokhozhdenii massovykh otkrytykh onlain-kursov [Barriers when Taking Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)]. Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes, no 3, pp. 37–49. https://doi.org/10.14515/monitoring.2015.3.04

Sinatra G.M., Heddy B.C., Lombardi D. (2015) The Challenges of Defining and Measuring Student Engagement in Science. Educational Psychologist, vol. 50, no 1, pp. 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2014.1002924

Skinner E.A., Belmont M.J. (1993) Motivation in the Classroom: Reciprocal Effects of Teacher Behavior and Student Engagement across the School Year. Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 85, no 4, pp. 571–581. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.85.4.571

Snyder C.R. (2002) Hope Theory: Rainbows in the Mind. Psychological Inquiry, vol. 13, no 4, pp. 249–275. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327965PLI1304_01Solomonides I. (2013) A Relational and Multidimensional Model of Student Engagement. The Student Engagement Handbook: Practice in Higher Education (eds E. Dunne, D. Owen), Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Group, pp. 43–58.

Solomonides I. (2013) A Relational and Multidimensional Model of Student Engagement. The Student Engagement Handbook: Practice in Higher Education (eds E. Dunne, D. Owen), Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Group, pp. 43–58.

Solomonides I., Martin P. (2008) All This Talk of Engagement Is Making Me Itch: An Investigation into the Conceptions of 'Engagement' Held by Students and Tutors. Student Engagement (eds L. Hand, C. Bryson), Nottingham, UK: Staff and Educational Development Association, pp. 13–18.

Spitzer M.W.H., Gutsfeld R., Wirzberger M., Moeller K. (2021) Evaluating Students’ Engagement with an Online Learning Environment during and after COVID-19 Related School Closures: A Survival Analysis Approach. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, vol. 25, November, Article no 100168. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tine.2021.100168

Swan K., Garrison D.R., Richardson J.C. (2009) A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework. Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks (ed. C.R. Payne), Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, pp. 43–57. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-60566-654-9.ch004

Terras M.M., Ramsay J. (2015) Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Insights and Challenges from a Psychological Perspective. British Journal of Educational Technology, vol. 46, no 3, pp. 472-487. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12274

Tinto V. (1987) Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures for Student Attrition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (2020) Embracing a Culture of Lifelong Learning: Contribution to the Futures of Education Initiative. Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.

UNESCO (2022) Reimagining Our Futures Together: A New Social Contract for Education. Paris: UNESCO

Vytasek J.M., Patzak A., Winne P.H. (2020) Analytics for Student Engagement. Machine Learning Paradigms (eds M. Virvou, E. Alepis, G. Tsihrintzis, L. Jain), Cham: Springer, pp. 23–48. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-13743-4_3

Wang R., Cao J., Xu Y., Li Y. (2022) Learning Engagement in Massive Open Online Courses: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Education, vol. 7, December, Article no 1074435. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2022.1074435

Yang D., Lavonen J.M., Niemi H. (2018) Online Learning Engagement: Factors and Results-Evidence from Literature. Themes in eLearning, vol. 11, no 1, pp. 1–22.

Zepke N. (2016) Student Engagement in Neoliberal Times: Theories and Practices for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Singapore: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-3200-4

Zimmerman B.J. (1990) Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement: An Overview. Educational Psychologist, vol. 25, no 1, pp. 3–17. http://doi.org/10.1207/s15326985ep2501_2

How to Cite
GerasimovaIuliia O., UrtenovaPolina R., and KulievaAynur V. 2023. “Engagement in Online Learning Through the Lens of Adults’ Learning Experience ”. Voprosy Obrazovaniya / Educational Studies Moscow, no. 4 (December). https://doi.org/10.17323/vo-2023-16315.
Research Articles