Does culture or self-directed learning drive online performance?

Qian Wang*, Chang Xiong, Jiajun Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The foundations of internally driven discipline are similar to self-directed learning (SDL). This study examines the effect of cultural orientation and SDL on the online performance of college students. It investigates how college students pursue SDL while maintaining a collectivist cultural orientation in their learning experience. It explains why students prefer SDL to learning constrained by an externally enforced discipline. Design/methodology/approach: The explanatory sequential mixed-method design uses a quantitative method, followed by qualitative enquiry. The research was conducted in an undergraduate non-credit online course in China. Findings: The findings show that cultural orientation has no impact on students' online performance, while SDL abilities are positively related to it. When fully mediated by SDL, a horizontal-collectivist culture has a positive effect on students' online performance. Research limitations/implications: Data were collected in a non-credit online college course, where the final assessment used a peer-rating approach and team members shared the same final score. This scoring method may not fully reflect each student's online performance. Practical implications: The findings suggest that, when considering cultural influence on student performance, researchers should consider learning contexts, including educational level and learning mode. This study validates that colleges should focus on ability and skill development that enhance internal motivation to improve students' online performance, rather than focussing on their beliefs. Originality/value: This paper introduces evidence to support the impact of culture on college students' online performance, showing that SDL abilities can drive performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1077-1098
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2021


  • Cultural orientation
  • Internal discipline
  • Online student performance
  • Self-directed learning

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