Hsu, H., Wang, C., & Levesque-Bristol, C.


Manuscript submitted for publication.


Abstract: While various researchers have conducted work supporting the validity of self-determination theory (SDT) in the conventional learning setting, only a few attempts have been made to explore its application in the online learning context. In a recent study using structural equation modeling (SEM), Chen and Jang (2010) concluded that the SDT-based model was unable to predict the learning outcomes in two online certificate programs. This result stimulated the continued inquiry on the validity of SDT in online learning environments. After analyzing the model employed in their study, the current study identified possible measurement issues and aimed to further examine the SDT-based model after modifications. More than 300 undergraduate students from seven online courses took part in this study and completed the surveys. The results indicated that a student-centered learning climate fostered the satisfaction of students’ basic psychological needs. The satisfaction of the basic psychological needs, in turn, enhanced self-regulated motivation, which then was associated with higher perceived knowledge transfer and more gains on course objectives. This study provided empirical evidence for the application of the SDT-based model in the online learning environment, which was not fully supported in the Chen and Jang’s (2010) study. Implications of these possible contradictory results are discussed.