Call for Papers - Motivating online learning: The challenges of COVID-19 and beyond

Motivating online learning: The challenges of COVID-19 and beyond

Guest editors
Thomas K.F. Chiu, Assistant Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Tzung-Jin Lin, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan
Kirsti Lonka, University of Helsinki, Finland

Aim of the special issue
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted students’ opportunities to learn worldwide. K-12 and higher education students have been forced to shift from traditional classrooms to emergency online/distance learning. The pandemic reveals the urgent need to augment the educational system’s technological and pedagogical infrastructure. Educators face key challenges in adapting teaching practices away from a focus on face-to-face learning to an online/technology mediated learning environment. Under this radical transformation process, researchers and practitioners should carefully reconsider the role of teachers, students, as well as the technological environment aspects of online learning and put ongoing efforts to adequately address the underlying epistemological basis of education (Tsai et al., 2013). These emerging challenges have never been apparent during this critical period of time. Hence, it is crucial for relevant stakeholders to reflect and improve the current practices of online teaching and learning through appropriate designs and evidence-based strategies. 

Online learning also heavily relies on the learners’ ability to make meaning through assuming agency in learning, initiating and sustaining meaningful multimodal communications, and developing conceptual understanding through active engagement with digital resources (Hartnett, 2016). In such online/distance teaching and learning contexts, the critical role of students’ self-regulation, motivation, and positive learning dispositions are accentuated (Chiu & Hew, 2018). These relevant issues and challenges are all originated from the pivotal question: How do we continuously motivate students in online learning environments? Although a number of studies have encompassed this issue in the field of educational technology, research evidence on how to appropriately adapt pertinent motivational theories to design effective and sustainable online pedagogy and learning in complex, multifaceted, and even situational online learning environments are still relatively under-investigated.

A broad range of motivational theories derived from motivation research such as self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2017), expectancy-value theory (Nagengast et al., 2011), goal theory (Senko et al., 2011), mindset theory (Yeager et al., 2019), and control-value theory (Pekrun, 2006) have been widely applied to understand the contextual and psychological factors that optimize students’ learning and engagement. These relevant theories have been successfully applied to understand the underlying environmental and psychological factors that affect learners’ motivation, engagement, and learning. The key social and psychological forces that are critical for optimal motivation, well-being, vitality. In turn, when pedagogical design adequately addresses these needs, learners are actively-motivated to engage in learning tasks. 

However, the added stress and anxiety from the pandemic may demotivate and disengage student learning as prior studies have highlighted that negative emotions may inhibit learning (Pekrun, 2006). Although applying various motivational theories to traditional face-to-face environments has proven to be a productive undertaking (e.g., Lawozski & Hulleman, 2016), little attention has been paid to how existing motivational theories can be used to understand how to optimize online learning or student engagement within technology infused learning contexts (Hsu, Wang, & Levesque-Bristol, 2019). This is a critical and urgent gap that cannot be ignored given the growing need for online learning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, how learners’ motivation can be build/leverage upon to sustained collaborative online meaning making is also an essential dimension that needs attention. In sum, what can we learn from the pandemic to emerge as more resilient, adaptive and resourceful teachers and learners? Undoubtedly, this crisis, first, has revealed a wide range of strengths/benefits as well as weaknesses/downsides with respect to online learning and teaching at this moment. Second, motivating learners to deeply engage in different forms of online learning activities as being self-managed, self-directed, and self-regulated has never been more important during this period. 

This special issue, therefore, aims to contribute new insights on how to leverage motivational theories to optimize online learning based on experiences gained from the COVID-19 pandemic. While the primary focus of this special issue is to provide empirical evidence for studies related to motivational theories regarding online learning, high quality critical and theoretical submissions will also be welcomed. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • What are teachers’ and students’ perspectives about online learning in relation to their motivation while experiencing the pandemic?
  • What potential individual, contextual, and/or social-cultural factors influence students’ motivation to learn online during the pandemic?
  • How do students’ anxiety and stress affect their motivations in online learning during pandemic?
  • What are the conceptual and/or technological features of online learning environments that influence motivation during school closure?
  • What are the innovative instructional designs/strategies motivate students to continue to learn and sustain quality education during the pandemic?
  • What are the emerging motivational constructs that educators need to consider in sustaining motivated online learning during school closure?
  • How do parents’ involvement and family support facilitate/inhibit students in online learning during the pandemic?
  • How do schools transit to online learning that effectively engages students? 
  • How do teachers develop students’ ability of self-directed learning, self-regulated learning and collaborative learning for online environment to prepare students for future unforeseen circumstances?

Submission information
Submissions will need to follow the submission guidelines found at The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher (TAPER) website. Previously published manuscripts will not be considered for this special issue. Your manuscript will go here.

Important dates


30th September 2020

Full Manuscript Submission Due

15th November 2020

First Round Review Complete

15th December 2020

First Round of Revisions from Authors Due

15th January 2020

Second Round Review (if needed) Complete:

15th February 2021

Second Round of Revisions (if needed) from Authors

15th March, 2021

Editors write the final disposition letter and submit to the journal

April 2021

The issue will be released

If you have questions, please contact the guest editors of this special issue at Dr. Thomas Chiu (, Dr Tzung-Jin Lin (, and Prof. Kirsti Lonka (

Chiu, T.K.F. , & Hew, T. K. (2018). Factors influencing peer learning and performance in MOOC asynchronous online discussion forum. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 34(4).
Hartnett, M. (2016). The importance of motivation in online learning. In M. Hartnett (Ed.), Motivation in online education (pp. 5-32). Springer.
Hsu, H. C. K., Wang, C. V., & Levesque-Bristol, C. (2019). Reexamining the impact of self-determination theory on learning outcomes in the online learning environment. Education and Information Technologies, 24(3), 2159-2174. 
King, R. B., & McInerney, D. M. (2016). Culturalizing motivation research in educational psychology. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 1-7.
Nagengast, B., Marsh, H. W., Scalas, L. F., Xu, M. K., Hau, K.-T., & Trautwein, U. (2011). Who Took the “×” out of Expectancy-Value Theory? A Psychological Mystery, a Substantive-Methodological Synergy, and a Cross-National Generalization. Psychological Science, 22(8), 1058-1066. 
Pekrun, R., Lichtenfeld, S., Marsh, H. W., Murayama, K., & Goetz, T. (2017). Achievement Emotions and Academic Performance: Longitudinal Models of Reciprocal Effects. Child Development, 88(5), 1653-1670. 
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-Determination Theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York: Guilford Press.
Senko, C., Hulleman, C. S., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2011). Achievement Goal Theory at the Crossroads: Old Controversies, Current Challenges, and New Directions. Educational Psychologist, 46(1), 26-47. 
Tsai, C.-C., Chai, C. S., Wong, B. K. S., Hong, H.-Y., & Tan, S. C. (2013). Positioning design epistemology and its applications in education technology. Educational Technology & Society, 16, 81-90.
UNESCO (2020, May 28). Educational Disruption and Response. UNESCO.  Retrieved from
Yeager, D. S., Hanselman, P., Walton, G. M., Murray, J. S., Crosnoe, R., Muller, C., … Dweck, C. S. (2019). A national experiment reveals where a growth mindset improves achievement. Nature, 573(7774).