S. Niedermeier, M. Sailer, R. Schätz, H. Mandl

University of Munich (LMU) (GERMANY)
This paper presents current empirical findings on dimensions of self-determination theory (SDT) of Deci and Ryan in online training programs for professional education of e-tutors under a moderate constructivist approach. The goal of these trainings is to educate qualified and motivated instructors, so-called e-tutors, in supporting learners in virtual learning environments. Such online trainings can be designed according to a moderate constructivist approach (Mandl & Reinmann-Rothmeier 2002). To investigate the motivational impact of these trainings, motivational theories have to be under consideration. This study focuses on SDT postulating three psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and (social) relatedness, which when satisfied yield enhanced intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The offered etutor trainings are designed with self-directed and cooperative virtual learning phases. From a theoretical perspective our trainings foster the dimensions of SDT: Informative and content specific feedback; choice is provided regarding e.g. further readings and opportunities to discuss tasks from different perspectives.
This study's main research question is, how far basic psychological needs can be fostered by moderate constructivist designed e-tutor training programs?

This study was conducted as field study within a pre- and posttest design. The sample includes 56 lecturers, who participated in spring (I) or autumn (II) trainings of 2014-I (N=15), 2013-II (N=26), 2013-I (N=16), 2012-II (N=22) and 2011-II (N=17). It is comprised of participants from various universities and faculties from various disciplines. 32 (57%) of them were female, 24 (43%) male. The average age was 34 years (M = 34,31). The data was collected through online questionnaires containing three scales on dimension of SDT for pre- and posttest. All items were assessed on five-point Likert scales. The reliabilities for each scale were acceptable.

Findings indicate that the satisfaction of psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and (social) relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2000) can be fulfilled by a moderate constructivist approach in educating e-tutors. A t-test indicates that participants’ feelings of competence (t(55) = -12.60, p < .01, d = 3.39) were significantly higher after participating in the training. Hereby a large effect size (d = 3.39) was observed. Participants’ feelings of autonomy (t(54) = -3.23, p < .01, d = 0.88) increased as well during the training. The observed effect size was large as well (d = 0.88). Regarding feelings of relatedness, participants showed increased need satisfaction after the training (t(55) = -10.51, p < .01, d = 2.83). Again, the effect size was large (d = 2.83). The results can be interpreted by taking a closer look at dimension of SDT and findings in the context of virtual learning environments. During the training, the competence need was possibly addressed by providing informative and content specific feedback. The possibility to gain autonomy was addressed by providing choice regarding e.g. further readings and opportunities to discuss tasks from different perspectives. The tasks in the training are personally endorsing and further address feelings of autonomy. These tasks also might possibly address the need for relatedness as it focuses on cooperation. Further research should try to investigate effects of the moderate constructivist design elements on the dimensions of self-determination theory.