Escape from infinite freedom: Effects of constraining user freedom on the prevention of dropout in an online learning context

Tae dong Kim, Min young Yang, Jinhwa Bae, Byoung a. Min, Inseong Lee, Jin Woo Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)


Online learning involving Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) is often used to avoid the physical limitations of offline learning. In addition, educational equality can be achieved by redistributing sunk costs in the online context. However, the dropout rate represents a serious and avoidable waste of economic resources. Numerous researchers have conducted studies on the subject, the large majority of whom outlined possible causes of the dropout phenomenon rather than offering solutions to reduce the dropout problem in e-learning. To remedy this, we propose practical system features to counteract the dropout rate in online learning. Through original use of psychological reactance theory (Brehm, 1966) as our main theoretical framework, we make two suggestions: restricting accessibility and limiting repeatability of online courses. These two measures create a sense of scarcity and lack of control, which may help to reduce dropout rates. In an experiment using our e-learning prototype, we analyzed data collected through a survey/questionnaire and interviews with subjects after the experiment. The results indicate that the perception of scarcity and lack of control in the online learning context may enhance e-learners’ concentration and increase their intention to continue and engage more deeply in online learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-231
Number of pages15
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Psychology(all)

Cite this