Learner antecedents of youth’s beliefs about agency and online learning
Developing students’ digital skills and self-confidence in their ability to purposefully use online learning opportunities is considered important for achieving educational objectives. This study empirically explores antecedents of young people’s beliefs about agency in online learning by applying structural equation modeling to a sample of 3400 Nordic youth age 15–17. The targeted antecedents are young people’s preferences for either net-induced self-determination of learning aims, content, and processes (online culture) or institutionalized schooling as they currently experience it (school culture). We find that both factors are positively related to digital agency, but that the relationship between online culture and school culture is strongly antagonistic. Furthermore, online time in class is positively related to online culture but negatively related to school culture. We argue that formal schooling’s efforts to capitalize on students’ informal learning experiences through introducing more net-based activities in class might bolster digital agency through improved technical expertise (medium-related online skills), while simultaneously de-privilege institutionalized schooling and the acquisition of the substantial knowledge required for the development of content-related online skills. Students’ preference constructions and beliefs regarding formal and informal learning processes are particularly significant if we are to facilitate educationally desirable synergy effects and avoid troubling inconsistencies.