MET:Self-Efficacy and E-Learning

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Efficacy is "the power to produce an effect"[1]; thus, self-efficacy is the belief in oneself to produce a desired effect. Psychologist Albert Bandura defines self-efficacy as "beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations"[2] and "to produce given attainments."[3] It affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts, factoring into a person's success for a given task.

It can be specific to any given area in which one is working (e.g. academic self-efficacy, computer self-efficacy, information literacy self-efficacy, Internet self-efficacy, online self-efficacy, etc.)

Characteristics of Self-Efficacy

Persons with a strong sense of self-efficacy see difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered, set challenging goals and maintain a strong commitment to accomplishing them, develop a deeper interest and engagement in activities, increase and sustain their efforts during times of opposition and hardship, and recover quicker from disappointments, setbacks and failures. Contrasty, persons with low self-efficacy tend to shy away from difficult tasks (viewing them as personal threats), have low aspirations and weak commitments to goals they have set, dwell on personal weaknesses or perceived problems when experiencing difficulty, are slower to recover from disappointments, setbacks or failures. [4]

Strong Self-Efficacy Low Self-Efficacy
  • Views difficult tasks are challenges to be mastered
  • Sets challenging, but realistic goals
  • Willing to take greater risks
  • Possesses stronger commitment to interests and activities
  • Highly engaged
  • Patient and persistent
  • Confident in the face of adversity
  • Resilient in disappointments, setbacks, and failures
  • Focuses on solutions
  • Manages stress well
  • Views difficult tasks as personal threats
  • Avoids challenging tasks and has low aspirations
  • Less likely to take risks
  • Exhibits weaker commitment to interests and activities
  • Tends to be withdrawn
  • Easily discouraged
  • Resigned in the face of adversity
  • Despondent in disappointments, setbacks, and failures
  • Focuses on problems
  • Prone to depression

Self-Efficacy Vs. Self-Confidence

While both terms denote a belief in oneself, efficacy is related to the potential of achievement, while confidence is more of a disposition. Self-efficacy is connected to a persons' confidence in their abilities to complete a task or reach a goal, without necessarily having prior experience in completion of the specific task or goal. Confidence, on the other hand, is gained through experiencing success or accomplishment. Bandura (1997) stated that:

"It should be noted that the construct of self-efficacy differs from the colloquial term "confidence." Confidence is a nondescript term that refers to strength of belief but does not necessarily specify what the certainty is about. I can be supremely confident that I will fail at an endeavor. Perceived self-efficacy refers to belief in one's agentive capabilities, that one can produce given levels of attainment. A self-efficacy assessment, therefore, includes both an affirmation of a capability level and the strength of that belief. Confidence is a catchword rather than a construct embedded in a theoretical system. Advances in a field are best achieved by constructs that fully reflect the phenomena of interest and are rooted in a theory that specifies their determinants, mediating processes, and multiple effects. Theory-based constructs pay dividends in understanding and operational guidance. The terms used to characterize personal agency, therefore, represent more than merely lexical preferences" (p.382).[3]

Self-Efficacy Self-Confidence Self-Esteem Self-Worth
Belief in one's own capabilities to

produce an outcome

Belief in one's own ability or situation The opinion or impression or oneself The sense of one's value or worth as a


Task specific General General General

Sources of Self-Efficacy

  • Personal Experience
  • Vicarious Experience (Social Modelling)
  • Social Persuasion
  • Physiological State

Personal Experience

Self-efficacy can be developed through personal experience, as individuals successfully complete or achieve their goal. It is strengthened as individuals experience more frequent successes when perusing the same or similar tasks. Conversely, failure to accomplish a given task may result in lower self-efficacy. Individuals who experience and expect success to come quickly are more vulnerable to discouragement and further loss of self-efficacy, since greater challenges require greater, sustained effort.[4]

Factors that affect the successful completion of a task are the:

  • difficulty of the task
  • effort expended
  • external help and support received
  • circumstances surrounding the task

Vicarious Experience (Social Modelling)

Self-efficacy can be developed through vicarious experience, also known as social modelling. Witnessing others completing a task, can strengthen one's own self-efficacy if the social model is similar in perceived ability as the observer.[4] The greater the assumed similarity, the greater the influence of the models' successes and failures will have on the observer. In addition, modelling is used to help one improve or acquire specific attitudes, attribute or aptitudes; the acquisitions of which naturally increase's one's self-efficacy.

Social Persuasion

Self-efficacy can be developed through social persuasion or the verbal encouragement of another during the completion of a task, especially in times of self-doubt or adversity. However, it is easier to contribute to a reduction of self-efficacy than it is to instill higher levels, due to the fact that those who need this type of motivation already suffer from low self-efficacy, and are likely to experience failure and continued disbelief in their own capabilities.[4] The validity of their negative self-perception, undermines any positive persuasion. The effectiveness of this source of self-efficacy is short-term.

Factors affecting effectiveness of social persuasion are:

  • who the persuader is and his/her relationship or influence on the individual
  • the credibility of the persuader
  • the knowledgeably of the persuader about the nature of the task

Physiological State

Self-efficacy can be dependent on ones' physiological and emotional state. The interpretation of mood and feeling can affect one's judgement regarding their capability to complete a task. In tasks involving physical strength and stamina, fatigue, aches and pains are judged as signs of physical debility. Self-efficacy is increase, through the reduction and proper management of stress and negative emotions.

Research, Self-Efficacy & E-Learning

Several studies have related important findings regarding self-efficacy and its influence in education and e-learning:

  • Specific self-efficacy measures are a better predictor of performance outcomes than general self-efficacy measures[5]
  • Computer self-efficacy is positively related to achievement outcomes in computer-based learning environments[6]
  • Students who receive behavioral modelling report significantly higher computer self-efficacy than do students who receive the traditional instruction-based method when learning with computer-based learning environments[6]
  • Individuals with greater online self-efficacy are more likely to take an online course. Furthermore, those who find the course content interesting would prefer taking the course in a traditional (face-to-face) classroom environment[7]
  • Higher Internet self-efficacy leads to increased learning satisfaction and retention in e-learning environments. Internet self-efficacy can be increased through social supports, especially for older adults, who have fewer social supports and spend less time online than younger adults. Greater levels of self-efficacy are also found amongst individuals in social groups from similar cultural backgrounds[8]
  • Lower self-efficacy levels are found in students with greater problematic Internet use (Internet use that postpones a student from completing an academic task)[10]

Teacher Strategies

The following strategies improve student's self-efficacy in e-learning environments:

  • Plan moderately challenging tasks, slightly above the learner's current performance level. Tasks should not frustrate or cause students to be afraid of failure, nor be overly simple as to bore or insult the learner's intelligence.[11]
  • Use peer models. Learners can be grouped or partnered with others who possess similar competencies and skills, but can also include those who are of similar age, race, gender, culture, or interests.[11]
  • Use interactive media, such as wikis or blogs, to help students plan, monitor, and regulate metacognitive strategies[9]
  • Provide students with choice. Choice promotes higher levels of engagement and interest, thus improving learning[11]
  • Provide frequent, task-specific feedback, deserved praise, and encouragement throughout the task or activity[11]
  • Stress recent successes. Focus success in terms of self-improvement rather than comparison to others.[4]

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  1. Efficacy. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from
  2. Bandura, A. (1995). Self-efficacy in changing societies. New York, NY: Cambridge University.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press.
  5. 5.0 5.1 DeTure, M. (2004). Cognitive style and self-efficacy: Predicting student success in online distance education. ‘’The American Journal of Distance Education’’, ‘’18’’(1), 21-38.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Moos, D.C., & Azevedo. (2009, June). Learning with computer-based learning environments: A literature review of computer self-efficacy. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 576-600.
  7. Artino, A.R. (2010). Online or face-to-face learning? Exploring the personal factors that predict students' choice of instructional format. Internet and Higher Education, 13(4), 272-276.
  8. Chu, R. J. & Chu A. Z. (2010) Multi-level analysis of peer support, Internet self-efficacy and e-learning outcomes - The contextual effect of collectivism and group potency. ‘’Computers & Education’’, ‘’55’(1), 145-155.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Killic-Cakmak, E. (2010). Learning strategies and motivational factors predicting information literacy self-efficacy of e-learners. ‘’Australasian Journal of Educational Technology’’, ‘’23’’(2), 192-208.
  10. Odaci, H. (2011). Academic self-efficacy and academic procrastination as predictors of problematic Internet use in university students. ‘’Computers & Education’, ‘’57’’(1), 1109-1113.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Margolis, H. & McCabe P. P. (2006). Improving self-efficacy and motivation: What to do, what to say. Intervention in School and Clinic, 41(4), 218-227.
  12. Yeager, D. S. & Walton, G. M. (2011). Social-psychological interventions in education: They’re not magic. ‘’Review of Educational Research’’, ‘’81’’(2), 267-301.

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