A Systematic Review of Studies Exploring Help-Seeking Strategies in Online Learning Environments


  • Fan Yang University of Georgia
  • Jill Stefaniak University of Georgia




adaptive help-seeking, online learning settings, formal & informal help-seeking


Adaptive help-seeking as a learning strategy can influence learners' learning outcomes. Learners in online learning environments need more self-regulation and especially more help-seeking strategies. A systematic review was conducted to explore help-seeking strategies in online learning environments. A search on help-seeking strategies in online environments in Educational Research Information Center (ERIC) and PsycInfo yielded 36 peer-reviewed articles that met the inclusion criteria for this study. Karabenick and Knapp’s categories of help-seeking (formal help-seeking, informal help-seeking, instrumental activities, lowering performance aspirations, and altering goals) were used to review the strategies employed by students in online learning. The results show that there is an extreme lack of research on learners’ psychological decision-making process when they lower performance aspirations or alter their goals. Moreover, most studies focus on the learners’ formal and informal help-seeking behaviors in online settings. Since much research has been limited to small case studies that are not always generalizable, future studies are encouraged to include more instructional contexts and personal variables like gender, age, educational background, and mastery of computer skills. To avoid biases that may occur in self-reporting studies, recommendations are made for future studies that use more subjective methods to trace their actual help-seeking behaviors.


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Systematic Reviews of Research on Online Learning