Assessment of self-directed learning in an online context in the community college setting

Online learning in higher education has increased substantially over the past five years with community colleges in the forefront of most of this growth. The California Community Colleges System, the nation's largest higher education system, has increased its online offerings among its 110 colleges. But student success rates for online learning have not matched up to that of the traditional face-to-face class. This study was conducted at a southern California community college with a student population of about 18,000. This study is based on the theoretical framework of adult learning principles. The application of two assumptions of adult learning principles--self-directedness and intrinsic motivation--to online courses is studied in two social science courses. Using the Adult Learning Inventory developed by Colton (2002), instructional methods based on adult learning principles have been investigated to understand the intrinsic motivation and self-directedness of online learners in the community college setting. This is a multiple-case study design with embedded units of analysis. The study intends to inform online course developers of components toward an online pedagogical construct that addresses adult learners in the community college context.