Silvia Clark

Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Moore School of Business

First Advisor

Robert Ployhart


In 2020, many organizations moved their formal training programs to an online learning context due to COVID-19. Informal learning, which refers to activities that are self-guided and occur independently outside of formal learning contexts has gained significant interest among researchers and practitioners in the past two decades as it has been identified as the primary type of learning in today's organizations. Despite the increasing interest in informal learning, no attempt has been made to examine and understand informal learning in an online learning environment.

This dissertation provides an integrative review of prior work on formal and informal learning in online and traditional face-to-face environments. It addresses the following research questions: (1) How can informal learning be conceptualized and measured in an online learning environment? (2) How do the coping styles of proactive coping, reflective coping, strategic planning, preventive coping, and support-seeking drive informal learning in an online learning environment? (3) How important are psychological capital and time structure for online learning behavior and, (4) How do contextual influences such as learning conditions and social support moderate the relationships between antecedents, coping, and informal learning behavior?

This study contributes to our understanding of how informal learning unfolds in an online learning environment. All five of the examined coping styles are positively related to informal learning behavior online and four of these coping styles (proactive coping, reflective coping, strategic planning, preventive coping,) also mediate the relationship between time structure and informal learning behavior. Support for mediation between psychological capital and informal learning was only found for proactive coping behavior. The results of this study showed that the examined contextual influences of social support, learning conditions, and informal learning did not moderate the relationships between psychological capital, time structure, coping behavior, and informal learning behavior.

For this study, data were collected from undergraduate students enrolled in an asynchronous introductory management class in the Fall of 2020. The collected data was analyzed using correlation analysis, descriptive analysis, and path analysis to answer the empirical research questions. This study provides theoretical and practical implications for human resource development and highlights suggestions for future research.