Detriments and Benefits of Choice in Distance Education

DECIDE is a CATALPA project.

Under which circumstances is choice beneficial for students and under which circumstances can it be detrimental? DECIDE explores the consequences of choice in the context of distance learning – also taking into account student diversity.

The ability to actively make choices for oneself is associated with a number of positive consequences in the educational context (e.g., higher motivation, higher engagement, better performance). However, these findings are largely based on laboratory research or face-to-face teaching formats. In the context of distance learning, however, self-motivation and self-regulation play a much stronger role and the student body is significantly more diverse. Within this context, inter-individual differences in preferences for autonomy and choice come into play. Moreover, freedom of choice can also be detrimental – for example, because students choose a suboptimal learning strategy, or they pursue further education in a one-sided manner.

In this respect, the project pursues four central goals: First, the generalizability and applicability of research on choice from laboratory and face-to-face teaching contexts will be transferred to distance learning contexts. Second, we develop elective procedures that are responsive to the needs of a diverse student body and examine their consequences. Third, we examine the extent to which restricted freedom of choice is associated with negative consequences. And fourth, we investigate to what extent alternative procedures can be used to prevent or reduce the potentially negative consequences of freedom of choice.

The subproject "DECIDE - Contents and Learning Activities" focuses on the motivational and performance-related advantages and disadvantages of choice with respect to learning contents, learning sequence, and learning activities, taking into account student characteristics such as their interests and expectations of success.

The subproject "DECIDE - Diversity" addresses the role of student diversity (in terms of gender, cultural background, and socioeconomic status) in meeting the basic needs for autonomy, social inclusion, and competence through choice in distance learning.

  • Lead Subproject "Contents and Learning Activities":

    Prof. Dr. Kathrin Jonkmann, Prof. Dr. Robert Gaschler

    Lead Subproject "Diversity":

    PD Dr. Laura Froehlich, Prof. Dr. Oliver Christ

  • M.Sc. Katharina Wolff

    M.Sc. Mai Grundmann

    Leah Vahle

  • 01.10.2023 – 31.12.2026

  • First publications from the project are currently in progress.

Sandra Kirschbaum | 08.04.2024