Self-regulated learning in the digital era

With the advancement in technology, we are seeing rapid changes in know-how-to and learning to adapt fast. We live in a new era in human history, a digital era where all aspects of our lives are affected by technology. The term “digital natives” refer to a new generation that has grown up with technologies (Prensky, 2013), and we, as educators, are struggling to catch up with how to deal with “digital natives” in our classroom. No doubt, technology has brought us convenience and efficiency in school; however, at the same time, it requires great responsibility. More than ever, students are expected to practice “digital wisdom” (Prensky, 2013) and self-control in their learning. 

According to Zimmerman, “Self-regulated learning refers to how students become masters of their own learning processes. It is not a mental ability or a performance skill but rather is the self-directed process through which abilities are transformed into task-related skills in diverse fields (Zimmerman, 2001).” Students take leadership in their learning to identify their own strengths and limitation in the process and thrive. SRL could encourage students to self-motivate by seeing their goals’ progress. Even when goals were not achieved and things did not play out the way they planned, students can still learn from their failures, know where to improve, and take a different course of action next time. 

There are three phases for self-regulated learning, “The forethought phase refers to processes and beliefs that occur before efforts to learn; the performance phase refers to processes that occur during behavioral implementation, and self-reflection refers to processes that occur after each learning effort (Zimmerman, 2001).” SRL comes down to setting goals, planning, and following through to achieve the goals. Also, students can transfer their self-regulated learning skills to achieve academic goals (Zimmerman, 2004).

Recent studies have shown that students who set specific goals for themselves have tremendous success in achieving the goals and also show positive perceptions of personal efficacy. In many cases, students just self-recording their learning process resulted in academic improvement. It is crucial to note that this self-presence in learning “…implied that students’ metacognitive (i.e., self) awareness of particular aspects of their functioning could enhance their self-control. …it can produce a readiness that is essential for personal change (Zimmerman, 2001).” These studies emphasize the critical role of technologies in recording and evaluating the self-regulated learning process. Not only technologies used to assist the SRL process, but another study conducted on university students showed improvement in SRL skills through the use of technology to display “personal presence” in collaborative learning, sharing and exchanging digital content, and creating opinions (Marcelo, 2017).

There is a correlation between SRL processes and academic success, and these SRL skills can be supported by technology (Winters, 2008). Self-regulated learning through technology supports the ISTE coaching standard for Empowered learner 1.1: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences. There is a need for more up-to-date research on how recently invented technologies can enhance SRL to help students become equipped, empowered learners in this ever-changing educational environment. 


Cleary, T. J., & Zimmerman, B. J. (2004). Self-regulation empowerment program: A school-based program to enhance self-regulated and self-motivated cycles of student learning. Psychology in the Schools, 41, 537-550.

Marcelo, C. (2017). University students’ self-regulated learning using digital technologies. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 14(1), 1-18.

Prensky, M (2013). “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom,” in From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin, 2013), 201-15  

Winters, F. I., Greene, J. A., & Costich, C. M. (2008). Self-regulation of learning within computer-based learning environments: A critical analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 20(4), 429–444. doi:10.1007/s10648-008-9080-9.

Zimmerman, B.J. (2001). Theories of self-regulated learning and academic achievement: An overview and analysis. In B.J. Zimmerman & D.H. Schunk (Eds.), Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theoretical perspectives (2nd ed., pp.1-37). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum

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