Academic Risk-Taking in an Online Environment

Date of Completion

January 2012


Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Technology of




Within Higher Education, the social nature of learning may no longer equate to in-person interactions. Technology provides various interaction options and changes the learning environment. The challenge for instructors of courses in the area of teacher education is to understand the nature of academic risk-taking associated with blended learning environments. While Settersten and Lovegreen (1998) revealed individual-level traits, such as risk-taking, as influential educational factors and others (e.g., Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993) identified these individual differences as key in the learning process, the phenomenon of risk behaviors seldom appears in the educational literature. As a result, I have created a conceptual framework based on the models of Rohrmann (2004) and Yates and Stone (1992). The overlay of these ideas provides a conceptual framework for an attempt to tease out the factors and processes that may influence an adults' decision to engage in academic risk-taking behavior. My research design for this descriptive study involved a mixed-methods approach to make sense of the process of academic risk-taking situated where it occurs. I used a concurrent triangulation strategy for collecting data, that offered comprehensive investigation with equal priority given to both qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative analysis (n=110) included descriptive statistics and Pearson correlations among the risk variables. Qualitative (n=18) analysis included thematic coding based on concepts in the conceptual framework and open coding. ^ The two data sets underwent integration using a comparison matrix. For the three variables (risk propensity, risk perception, and risk appraisal), the converged qualitative and quantitative data sets showed similar patterns. This was especially true at the ends of the scales. The mixed-methods data related to risk propensity, risk appraisal, and risk perception characterized the academic risk-taking behavior in the online component of a blended format course among pre-service teachers in several ways. The converged data did reveal a high positive association between a participant's risk propensity and their academic risk-taking behavior. Insights gleaned from this endeavor will afford instructors of adult learners a richer understanding of a process that may influence adult learning. Academic Risk-Taking is a concept that needs further exploration and understanding in adult education. ^