A Meta-Analytic Investigation of Objective Learner Control in Web-based Instruction

Richard N. Landers, Craig M. Reddock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Purpose: Research examining learner control of adult web-based instruction has been inconsistent, showing both positive and negative effects on learning outcomes. In addition, the specific implementation decisions made across studies that are labeled “learner control” often differ dramatically. The purpose of the present study was to provide a theoretical framework by which to understand objective learner control and to empirically test it. Design/Methodology: In this study, a nine-dimensional hierarchical framework of objective learner control was developed from an extensive literature review. This framework includes instructional control (skip, supplement, sequence, pace, practice, and guidance control), style control (i.e., control of aesthetic training characteristics), and scheduling control (time and location control). Hypothesized effects were tested meta-analytically. Findings: Findings suggested that (1) types of learner control are almost always confounded in experimental learner control research; (2) objective learner control is not a multidimensional construct but instead of a set of related design choices; (3) across types, learner control is generally effective in skill training but varies greatly in knowledge training and in terms of reactions; and (4) sequence control is the only type that generally does not harm either learning or reactions across contexts. Implications: Given the significant confounding present in most of the literature, learner control researchers are recommended to isolate specific control features. Practitioners should identify specific targeted outcomes and choose features according to those goals. Originality/Value: This is the first study to propose and test a theoretically derived framework of objective learner control, providing a roadmap for research and state-of-the-art practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-478
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adult learning
  • Learner control
  • Meta-analysis
  • Training
  • Web-based instruction


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