Background and Objectives: In the past decades, online education as a variety of distance education has drawn the attention of administrators, instructors and students. Amid Covid-19 pandemic, online education has become an inevitable necessity. Students’ engagement in such classes may influence learning and achievement. Engagement refers to the efforts put forward by the students in the process of learning. Educators believe that the components of engagement are interaction between students, content of the course, classmates and instructors in order to gain desired achievement (good scores and academic satisfaction). They also hold that engagement is a prerequisite and a factor for enduring learning. There is research evidence that student engagement is a strong predictor of achievement. A profile of students’ achievement and engagement is presented. In the present study, the relationship between engagement and achievement in online classes was examined.
Methods: The study was a correlational one designed to answer the research question through the Online Student Engagement Scale developed by Dixon and a researcher-made achievement test. The questionnaire includes four dimensions and 19 items on a seven-point Likert scale developed in 2015. The dimensions are: skills, emotions, engagement and performance. The researcher could not locate any record of this scale in Iranian scientific journals. Hence, he had to translate it into Persian. Back translation was done by a university professor. The questionnaire had been adapted with Google Form and delivered to 297 students of general English courses through a university LMS in 2020. The students were required to fill out the forms on a seven-point bases. Two-hundred and six students returned the questionnaire, 22 of which had to be discarded because there were traces of inattention in the forms, e.g., some of the students had chosen a certain or every other one option for all items. There were clearly discernable patterns in these 22 forms. The remaining 184 responses and their corresponding test scores were put to statistical analysis. The questionnaire was posted to the students through the LMS. The second instrument of this study was a test of reading comprehension developed by the researcher. The test was developed on the basis of theories of reading. However, to establish its content and theoretical validity it was submitted to a panel of five instructors of English. The test included 40 items. It was administered as the final exam through the university LMS.
Findings: The results analyzed through one-sample t-test revealed that students’ achievement and engagement level is satisfactory. Quantile regression showed that there was a significant relationship between engagement and achievement of high achievers. However, bivariate correlation could not locate any statistically significant relationship between engagement and achievement of average students. The findings are in contrast with research findings in other countries. Different explanations may account for this contrast, e.g., online education for the participants of this study was not optional. Hence, the students might not be motivated for learning. They might lack necessary skills and instruments for this mode of education. As a consequence, they might have developed some sort of stress resulting in lack of academic satisfaction, self-esteem, and underestimation. However, students’ level of engagement perception was satisfactory. It needs to be stated that no report of a similar research was located in Iran.
Conclusions: The present study aimed at finding the relationship between engagement and achievement in online English classes. The theory of engagement holds true for high achievers but not for average or low achievers. In order to assess students’ engagement, a self-report questionnaire was used. Researchers are well aware of the fact that this method of data collection is open to measurement error.
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