Using Self-Determination Theory to Improve Online Learner Motivation

Written by: Rob Kelly
Published On: April 12, 2014

According to self-determination theory, a theory developed by Deci and Ryan, three basic psychological needs affect motivation: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Susan Epps, associate professor of Allied Health Sciences, and Alison Barton, associate professor of Teaching and Learning, both at East Tennessee State University, have used this theory to develop ways to improve online learner motivation.


In this context, autonomy does not refer to independence but to the desire to have control over one’s own life and to make choices based on personal preferences. In an online course, this means providing students with opportunities to have some control over the learning experience. 

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