Enhancing Student PsyCap in an Online Learning Environment

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computer-room-314632-m[We’re pleased to welcome Joshua J. Daspit of Mississippi State University. Dr. Daspit recently published an article in Journal of Management Education with T. C. Mims of Texas Woman’s University and Staci M. Zavattaro of Mississippi State University entitled “The Role of Positive Psychological States in Online Learning: Integrating Psychological Capital Into the Community of Inquiry Framework.”]

The abstract:

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

My colleagues and I found this topic interesting because in addition to conducting research, a large portion of our jobs is dedicated to working with students. Each of us uses online components within our classes or teaches courses that are fully online – as many instructors do today – and the idea started from a simple desire to understand how we can enhance student learning within an online environment.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

To understand how learning occurs within the context of an online environment, we used the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework to conceptualize how learning occurs. The CoI suggests three presences exist within an online learning environment. First, there is a teaching presence that consists of course development and facilitation by the instructor. Second, a social presence exists when individuals interact with peers within the online context. Last, the CoI suggests that the other two factors influence an individual-level cognitive presence. In other words, the teaching and social presences influence student learning.

In this study, we extend the CoI framework to account for an additional presence. Specifically, we suggest that an additional, individual-level factor drives the student’s learning, and that factor is the individual student’s psychological capital (or PsyCap). PsyCap cJME_72ppiRGB_powerpointonsists of the student’s self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience. Without these, we suggest, the student is likely to have difficulty learning.

After testing the relationships among PsyCap and the components of the CoI framework, we find that instructors are able to positively influence the student’s PsyCap via the teaching presence. Additionally, the student’s PsyCap has a positive influence on the social presence within the online environment, and most notably, PsyCap positively influences the student’s learning (i.e., cognitive presence).

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

In the article, we offer suggestions for specific ways that instructors of online courses can enhance the student’s PsyCap and thereby enhance the student’s learning. For example, instructors may utilize an online PsyCap training session early in the semester as such trainings are shown to positively enhance the PsyCap of individuals.

We look forward to suggestions from other instructors who have found innovative ways to enhance student PsyCap and learning in online courses.

You can read “The Role of Positive Psychological States in Online Learning: Integrating Psychological Capital Into the Community of Inquiry Framework” from Journal of Management Education by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research from Journal of Management Education? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!


Josh DaspitJoshua J. Daspit, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Management at Mississippi State University. His research interests include examining firm capabilities and innovation with a primary focus on absorptive capacity and family business. His work has appeared in Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Academy of Management Learning & Education, Journal of Managerial Issues, and other outlets. Prior to joining academia, he worked as a senior consultant for an international consulting firm and served as Director of Community Affairs for a member of Congress. (Follow him on Twitter: @JoshDaspit.)

TC MimsTina C. Mims, Ph.D., is currently serving as a Visiting Lecturer at Texas Woman’s University. Dr. Mims is a recently vetted PhD in Marketing after practicing marketing as VP & Director roles at Fortune 1000 firms. She is passionate regarding the preparation of both graduate and undergraduate students to have a competency based learning experience transferable to their chosen careers.

Staci ZavattaroStaci M. Zavattaro, Ph.D., is an associate professor of public administration at the University of Central Florida. Her main research interests include place branding and marketing, as well as social media use within the public sector. Her books include Cities for Sale (SUNY Press), Place Branding Through Phases of the Image (Palgrave Macmillan), and Social Media in Government: Theory and Practice (CRC Press). She serves as managing editor of Administrative Theory & Praxis and belongs at the Public Administration Theory Network, the Public Management Research Association, and the American Society for Public Administration.

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