Learning Motivation of University Students in Online and Classroom Teaching: Insights from Teaching during Covid-19





learning motivation, online teaching, blended learning, higher education


In this paper, I present and discuss the findings of an intentional and systematic inquiry into the learning motivation of university master’s students taking the same course in online and classroom-based formats during the Covid-19 pandemic. Through capturing the students’ motivation using Keller’s Instructional Materials Motivation Survey at two points during the semester and analyzing the students’ course evaluations and the reflective reports of tutors, I uncover various factors influencing students’ motivation. Among these are the structuredness of instructions, technical difficulties, perceived effort of the teachers, novelty of tools, and the social relationships between students. I conclude my discussion with a proposition for designing motivating blends for online higher education students.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Kristof Tomej, University of Southern Denmark

Kristof Tomej is assistant professor in the Department of Design and Communication and the Center for Tourism, Innovation, and Culture at the University of Southern Denmark in Kolding, Denmark.


Bates, A. W. (Tony). 2015. Teaching in a Digital Age. Tony Bates Associates Ltd. https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/.

Boton, Eliani Colferai, and Sue Gregory. 2015. “Minimizing Attrition in Online Degree Courses.” Journal of Educators Online 12 (1). https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1051044.

Braun, Virginia, and Victoria Clarke. 2006. “Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology.” Qualitative Research in Psychology 3 (2): 77–101.

Butler, Ruth. 2012. “Striving to Connect: Extending an Achievement Goal Approach to Teacher Motivation to Include Relational Goals for Teaching.” Journal of Educational Psychology 104 (3): 726–42. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028613.

Castro, Robin. 2019. “Blended Learning in Higher Education: Trends and Capabilities.” Education and Information Technologies 24 (4): 2523–46. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-019-09886-3.

Chen, Kuan-Chung, and Syh-Jong Jang. 2010. “Motivation in Online Learning: Testing a Model of Self-Determination Theory.” Computers in Human Behavior, 26 (4): 741–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2010.01.011.

Chyung, Seung Youn (Yonnie). 2001. “Systematic and Systemic Approaches to Reducing Attrition Rates in Online Higher Education.” American Journal of Distance Education 15 (3): 36–49. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923640109527092.

Cochran-Smith, Marilyn, and Susan L. Lytle. 1990. “Research on Teaching and Teacher Research: The Issues That Divide.” Educational Researcher 19 (2): 2–11. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X019002002.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 2014. “Intrinsic Motivation and Effective Teaching.” In Applications of Flow in Human Development and Education: The Collected Works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, edited by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 173–87. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9094-9_8.

Day, Terence. 2015. “Academic Continuity: Staying True to Teaching Values and Objectives in the Face of Course Interruptions.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry 3 (1): 75–89. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.3.1.75.

Dohn, Nina Bonderup, Marianne Thorsen, and Søren Larsen. 2015. “E-Learning.” In University Teaching & Learning, 299–326. Frederiksberg: Samfundslitteratur.

Ferrer, Justine, Allison Ringer, Kerrie Saville, Melissa A Parris, and Kia Kashi. 2022. “Students’ Motivation and Engagement in Higher Education: The Importance of Attitude to Online Learning.” Higher Education 83 (2): 317–38. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-020-00657-5.

Francis, Michelle K., Stephanie V. Wormington, and Chris Hulleman. 2019. “The Costs of Online Learning: Examining Differences in Motivation and Academic Outcomes in Online and Face-to-Face Community College Developmental Mathematics Courses.” Frontiers in Psychology 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02054.

Hartnett, Maggie. 2016. “The Importance of Motivation in Online Learning.” In Motivation in Online Education, edited by Maggie Hartnett, 5–32. Singapore: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-0700-2_2.

Hartnett, Maggie, Alison St. George, and John Dron. 2011. “Examining Motivation in Online Distance Learning Environments: Complex, Multifaceted, and Situation-Dependent.” International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 12 (6): 20–38. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v12i6.1030.

Heape, Chris, and Janne Liburd. 2018. “Collaborative Learning for Sustainable Tourism Development.” In Collaboration for Sustainable Tourism Development, edited by Janne Liburd and Deborah Edwards, 226–43. Oxford: Goodfellow Publishers. http://dx.doi.org/10.23912/9781911635000-3879.

Herman, Geoffrey L., Kathryn Trenshaw, David E. Goldberg, Jonathan Stolk, and Mark Somerville. 2013. “Creating an Intrinsic-Motivation-Driven Course Design Method.” In 2013 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 1203–9. https://doi.org/10.1109/FIE.2013.6685021.

Hutchings, Pat, and Lee S. Shulman. 1999. “The Scholarship of Teaching: New Elaborations, New Developments.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 31 (5): 10–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091389909604218.

Keller, John M. 1987. “Development and Use of the ARCS Model of Instructional Design.” Journal of Instructional Development 10 (3): 2–10. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02905780.

Keller, John M. 2010. “Tools to Support Motivational Design.” In Motivational Design for Learning and Performance: The ARCS Model Approach, edited by John M. Keller, 267–95. Boston, MA: Springer US. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1250-3_11.

Kember, David, Amber Ho, and Celina Hong. 2010. “Characterising a Teaching and Learning Environment Capable of Motivating Student Learning.” Learning Environments Research 13 (1): 43–57. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-009-9065-8.

Kivunja, Charles. 2014. “Theoretical Perspectives of How Digital Natives Learn.” International Journal of Higher Education 3 (1): 94–109.

Leenknecht, Martijn J. M., Ingrid Snijders, Lisette Wijnia, Remy M. J. P. Rikers, and Sofie M. M. Loyens. 2020. “Building Relationships in Higher Education to Support Students' Motivation.” Teaching in Higher Education 0 (0): 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2020.1839748.

Li, Kun, and John M. Keller. 2018. “Use of the ARCS Model in Education: A Literature Review.” Computers & Education 122 (July): 54–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.03.019.

Lim, Doo H. 2004. “Cross Cultural Differences in Online Learning Motivation.” Educational Media International 41 (2): 163–75. https://doi.org/10.1080/09523980410001685784.

Lin, Ming-Hung, Huang-g Chen, and Kuang-Sheng Liu. 2017. “A Study of the Effects of Digital Learning on Learning Motivation and Learning Outcome.” Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education 13 (7): 3553–64. https://doi.org/10.12973/eurasia.2017.00744a.

Loes, Chad N. 2022. “The Effect of Collaborative Learning on Academic Motivation.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry 10 (January). https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.10.4.

Lytle, Susan L., and Marilyn Cochran-Smith. 1992. “Teacher Research as a Way of Knowing.” Harvard Educational Review 62 (4): 447.

Marasi, Shelly, Brian Jones, and Janna M. Parker. 2020. “Faculty Satisfaction with Online Teaching: A Comprehensive Study with American Faculty.” Studies in Higher Education, 47 (3): 513-25. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2020.1767050.

Nolen, Susan Bobbitt. 2020. “A Situative Turn in the Conversation on Motivation Theories.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 61 (April): 101866. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2020.101866.

Park, Elisa L., and Bo Keum Choi. 2014. “Transformation of Classroom Spaces: Traditional versus Active Learning Classroom in Colleges.” Higher Education 68 (5): 749–71. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10734-014-9742-0.

Pei, Leisi, and Hongbin Wu. 2019. “Does Online Learning Work Better than Offline Learning in Undergraduate Medical Education? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Medical Education Online 24 (1): 1666538. https://doi.org/10.1080/10872981.2019.1666538.

Rovai, Alfred, Michael Ponton, Mervyn Wighting, and Jason Baker. 2007. “A Comparative Analysis of Student Motivation in Traditional Classroom and E-Learning Courses.” International Journal on E-Learning 6 (3): 413–32.

Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. 2000. “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 25 (1): 54–67. https://doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1999.1020.

Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. 2020. “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation from a Self-Determination Theory Perspective: Definitions, Theory, Practices, and Future Directions.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 61 (April): 101860. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2020.101860.

Schiefele, Ulrich. 2017. “Classroom Management and Mastery-Oriented Instruction as Mediators of the Effects of Teacher Motivation on Student Motivation.” Teaching and Teacher Education 64 (May): 115–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.02.004.

Shroff, Ronnie H., and Douglas R. Vogel. 2009. “Assessing the Factors Deemed to Support Individual Student Intrinsic Motivation in Technology Supported Online and Face-to-Face Discussions.” Journal of Information Technology Education: Research 8 (1): 59–85.

Stewart, Cindy, Christine Bachman, and Ruth Johnson. 2010. “Student Characteristics and Motivation Orientation of Online and Traditional Degree Programs.” Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 6 (2): 367.

Taylor, Janet A., and Diane Newton. 2013. “Beyond Blended Learning: A Case Study of Institutional Change at an Australian Regional University.” The Internet and Higher Education, Blended Learning in Higher Education: Policy and Implementation Issues, 18 (July): 54–60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.10.003.

Tomej, Kristof, Janne Liburd, Bodil Stilling Blichfeldt, and Anne-Mette Hjalager. 2022. “Blended and (Not so) Splendid Teaching and Learning: Higher Education Insights from University Teachers during the Covid-19 Pandemic.” International Journal of Educational Research Open 3 (January): 100144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedro.2022.100144.

Trigwell, Keith. 2013. “Evidence of the Impact of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Purposes.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry 1 (1): 95–105. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.1.1.95.

U-Multirank, “About 60% of universities reported online learning provisions in their strategic planning pre-COVID-19, but only few appeared to be prepared for a quick shift to full online programmes,” press release, June 9, 2020, https://www.umultirank.org/press-media/press-releases/about-60-percent-of-universities-reported-online-learning-provisions-in-their-strategic-planning-pre-covid-19/.




How to Cite

Tomej, Kristof. 2022. “Learning Motivation of University Students in Online and Classroom Teaching: Insights from Teaching During Covid-19”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 10 (October). https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.10.35.