Growth Mindsets in Online Learning

January 18, 2021

Louis Tay

Many first-time online learners can feel stressed and overwhelmed. Students often expect that the online learning format is challenging and difficult. While there are unique challenges to online learning, our expectations of online learning can radically affect how we engage with the material.

One important expectation is that one’s character, skills, and intelligence can grow through challenges – also known as a growth mindset – coined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. Individuals who have a growth mindset embrace challenges as opportunities to develop. As such, they persist through challenges and work on mastering content and skills.

Concerning online learning, recent research shows that having a growth mindset – or having an expectation or belief – predicts greater engagement with online learning material among first-time online undergraduate and graduate students. Also, a growth mindset was important for predicting restudying information in self-guided learning, which is often the case with online learning.

Changing our mindsets and expectations about online learning may help improve our online learning experience. How might we do so?

  1. Awareness of negative expectations. The words that we speak to ourselves are powerful, and they help shape our expected reality. Pausing to think about our expectations and reframinig them toward the positive is one step toward changing our mindset.

  2. Blunders are part of learning. We need to recognize and accept that true mastery requires mistakes and failures. Instead of focusing on the grade, focus on the process of mastering the ideas and concepts at hand. You may find that you enjoy the process of learning more.

  3. Challenges create growth. We stretch ourselves by overcoming challenges. Rather than seeking to escape the challenges of online learning – wholeheartedly embracing it can lead you to find new and creative ways of engagement. These skills will become essential for the new world of work as well.

Be well,


Dr. Louis Tay

Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science.  Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!

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