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Monitoring Online Training Behaviors: Awareness of Electronic Surveillance Hinders E-Learners1


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    The authors thank John G. Cope and Karl L. Wuensch for their insightful comments and suggestions concerning this research. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 20th annual conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Los Angeles, CA, April 2005. Portions of this study were carried out while the first two authors were affiliated with East Carolina University.

Lori Foster Thompson, Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 7650, Raleigh, NC 27695-7650. E-mail:


Web-based training programs commonly capture data reflecting e-learners' activities, yet little is known about the effects of this practice. Social facilitation theory suggests that it may adversely affect people by heightening distraction and arousal. This experiment examined the issue by asking volunteers to complete a Web-based training program designed to teach online search skills. Half of participants were told their training activities would be tracked; the others received no information about monitoring. Results supported the hypothesized effects on satisfaction, performance, and mental workload (measured via heart rate variability). Explicit awareness of monitoring appeared to tax e-learners mentally during training, thereby hindering performance on a later skills test. Additionally, e-learners reported less satisfaction with the training when monitoring was made salient.