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The purpose of this study was to measure the impact of ARCS-based motivational email messages (MVEMs) on student participation in a free online English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) course. The course consisted of 10 communicative tasks and learners were to complete two tasks per week for five weeks. Each task involved pre-task activities with model language before students completed the communicative task by posting on the class message board. Students received task instructions via email. The independent variable (IV) for the study was type of email students received. The IV had three levels. The control group received task instructions via email. The experimental groups received the same task instructions with added ARCS-based motivational messages related to relevance, confidence, and volition. One experimental group received non-personalized relevance messages while the second experimental group received personalized relevance messages. Students received two emails per week for five weeks during the course. The emails were sent regardless of participation or performance so even students who did not complete any communicative tasks were sent 10 emails with instructions and, depending on group assignment, motivational messages. I measured participation based on number of students who completed at least one task, number of tasks completed, number of words written, number of visits to pre-task webpages, and time logged in to the class message board. Results suggest that ARCS-based MVEMs may encourage students to participate in free online language classes as both experimental groups outperformed the control group. No clear difference was found between the personalized and non-personalized MVEM groups. I also asked students for their thoughts about participation in the class. A qualitative content analysis revealed that students blamed commitments such as work, school, and family for lack of participation in the free ESOL class. Students credited the communicative tasks when they participated in the class. Students who received MVEMs appreciated the confidence and volitional messages. Implications for increasing student participation in free, online language courses are provided.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
James Klein, Professor Directing Dissertation; Stephen McDowell, University Representative; Aubteen Darabi, Committee Member; Russell Almond, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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