Self-Determination: Motivational Profiles of Bachelor’s Degree Seeking Students at an Online, For-Profit University

Carol Pugh


Grounded in the self-determination theory, this exploratory quantitative study investigated motivational profiles of bachelor’s degree seeking students at an online, for-profit university.  Cluster analysis revealed two distinct motivational profiles (internally and externally regulated) of 158 students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program.  The significant differences between the two profiles offers support for the multidimensional nature of motivation as argued by self-determination theory.  A chi-square test of independence revealed a significant association between motivational profile membership and gender.  No associations were found between motivational profile membership and age.  The results offer insights into the motivations of bachelor’s degree seeking students attending an online, for-profit university.  Over two-thirds of the students in this study exhibited high external forms of motivation.  It is recommended practitioners employ methods to increase autonomous forms of motivation in the online, for-profit educational setting.  Understanding student motivations to graduate may help administrators, curriculum designers, and instructors develop focused interventions and best practices that could be used to increase graduation rates.


self-determination theory, motivational profiles, academic motivation scale, online education

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