Motivations, Achievements, and Challenges of Self-Directed Informal Learners in Open Educational Environments and MOOCs


  • Curtis J. Bonk Indiana University
  • Mimi Miyoung Lee University of Houston



Open educational resources, open education, informal learning, massive open online courses (MOOCs), self-directed learning, intrinsic motivation


This research targeted the learning preferences, goals and motivations, achievements, challenges, and possibilities for life change of self-directed online learners enrolled in a massive open online course (MOOC) related to online teaching hosted by Blackboard using CourseSites. Data collection included a 40-item survey of which 159 MOOC respondents completed the close-ended survey items and 49 completed the 15 open-ended survey items. Across the data, it is clear that self-directed online learners are internally motivated and appreciate the freedom to learn and choice that open educational resources provide. People were also motivated to learn informally from personal curiosity and interest as well as professional growth needs and goals for self-improvement. Identity as a learner was positively impacted by informal online learning pursuits. Foreign language skills as well as global, cultural, historical, environmental, and health-related information were among the most desired by the survey respondents. The main obstacles to informal online learning were time, costs associated with technology use, difficulty of use, and lack of quality. Qualitative results, embedded in the findings, indicate that self-directed learners take great pleasure in knowing that they do not have to rely on others for their learning needs. Implications for instructional designers are offered.

Author Biographies

Curtis J. Bonk, Indiana University

Dr. Curtis J. Bonk is Professor at Indiana University teaching psychology and technology courses. Drawing on his background as a corporate controller, CPA, educational psychologist, and instructional technologist, Bonk offers unique insights into the intersection of business, education, psychology, and technology in his popular blog, TravelinEdMan. In addition to many national and statewide innovative distance teaching awards, in 2014, he received the Mildred B. and Charles A. Wedemeyer Award for Outstanding Practitioner in Distance Education. From 2012 to 2017, Bonk has been annually named by Education Next and listed in Education Week among the top contributors to the public debate about education from more than 20,000 university-based academics. He has authored several widely used technology books, including The World Is Open, Empowering Online Learning, The Handbook of Blended Learning, Electronic Collaborators, Adding Some TEC-VARIETY which is free as an eBook (, and, most recently, MOOCs and Open Education Around the World (

Mimi Miyoung Lee, University of Houston

Dr. Mimi Miyoung Lee is Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Houston (UH). She received her Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University at Bloomington in 2004. She is co-director of the UH doctoral program in curriculum and instruction focusing on urban education. During past few years, Mimi has published research on STEM related professional development programs, cross-cultural training research, interactive videoconferencing, self-directed learning from MOOCs and OpenCourseWare (OCW), and emerging learning technologies such as wikis. Her other research and teaching interests include global and multicultural education, woman leaders in Asia, teacher training for diversity, discourse analysis and CMC, and critical ethnography. Most recently, Professor Lee was co-editor of “MOOCs and Open Education Around the World” published by Routledge in 2015 as well as special journal issue of the International Journal on E-Learning (IJEL) on MOOCs and Open Education also in 2015.


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How to Cite

Bonk, C. J., & Lee, M. M. (2017). Motivations, Achievements, and Challenges of Self-Directed Informal Learners in Open Educational Environments and MOOCs. Journal of Learning for Development, 4(1).



Invited Articles
Received 2017-02-22
Accepted 2017-02-22
Published 2017-03-24