Even though Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have created highly personalized and dynamic learning environments for higher education, the low completion rate has hampered their development. Nevertheless, how to engage MOOC learners in continuing to learn online remains unclear in terms of psychological mechanisms. Enlightened by the social cognitive view of learning and hardiness theory, this study investigates the mediating role of online academic hardiness (the courage that is needed to turn stressful changes from burdens into advantageous growth in online environments) between web-based learning self-efficacy (the specific beliefs that people have in their capability to complete tasks when learning online) and online learning engagement. Using validated self-reported scales, a total of 608 participants of six MOOCs courses from Taiwan were included in this study. The results of structural equation modeling indicated the significant mediating effect of commitment on behavioral, emotional and cognitive engagement in learning MOOCs. Additionally, we found that the components of web-based learning self-efficacy led to different types of engagement: general Internet-based learning self-efficacy contributes to behavioral and emotional engagement, whereas functional Internet-based learning self-efficacy contributes to emotional and cognitive engagement. The direct and indirect effects of web-based learning self-efficacy highlight its critical role in online learning engagement. Overall, our conceptual model based on the agentic view of social cognitive theory provides researchers and practitioners with a holistic picture to understand the MOOC engagement phenomenon by revealing mixed results compared to traditional distance education.
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