Relationships Between Students’ Course Perceptions, Effort, and Achievement in an Online Course

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The primary purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which students’ course perceptions (i.e., perceptions of empowerment, usefulness, success, interest, and caring) and cost beliefs predict their effort and grades in an online course. We surveyed 1,446 students in an online geography course. Students completed closed- and open-ended items and we used structural equation modeling and qualitative coding to analyze the data. Students’ course perceptions predicted their course effort, which then predicted their final course grade. The quantitative findings demonstrated that students’ situational interest and perceptions of instructor caring were statistically significant predictors of their effort and achievement. The qualitative findings indicated that students’ perceptions of the usefulness of the course content and their interest affected their effort, as did the amount of time that they had available for course activities. The findings were moderated by students’ perceptions of course ease. Students reported decreased effort when they believed that they could succeed and the course was easy, and when they believed it was going to take a lot of time and the course was difficult. This study highlights the importance of designing courses that (a) interest students in the course activities, (b) foster perceptions of caring between the instructor and students, (c) are at an appropriate level of difficulty, and (d) provide a reasonable workload with considerations for students with time constraints. Researchers may use the findings to develop interventions and strategies that instructors can use to encourage students to put forth more effort in online courses.