Student Agency in Traditional and Distance Learning from Their Instructors' Perspective



Student agency serves as a key factor in student success at university, and a crucial factor in distance learning. The forced transition to teaching with distance educational technologies eased external regulation and showed a picture of student agency. This study aims to describe how instructors assess student agency and how it changes with distance learning. Our study is based on the data from 27 interviews with instructors from 12 Russian leading universities. Interviews were held in two waves: before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this study, we analyze how the learning process is organized usually and in the new conditions, how instructors assess students’ agency in traditional and distance learning, and we also present instructors’ forecast for the future and practices that they plan to continue using when the quarantine is over.

General Information

Keywords: agency, self-regulated learning, higher education, distance learning, COVID-19, students, instructors

Journal rubric: Educational Psychology and Pedagogical Psychology

Article type: review article


Acknowledgements. We express gratitude to our colleagues from the Laboratory for University Development, the Centre of Sociology of Higher Education and the School of Sociology (NRU HSE) for data collection, as well as A.S. Obukhov, E.A. Terentev and I.A. Shcheglova for their helpful comments to the first draft of the text.

For citation: Zakharova U.S., Vilkova K.A. Student Agency in Traditional and Distance Learning from Their Instructors' Perspective [Elektronnyi resurs]. Sovremennaia zarubezhnaia psikhologiia = Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology, 2020. Vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 87–96. DOI: 10.17759/jmfp.2020090308. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Ulyana S. Zakharova, PhD in Philology, Research Fellow, Centre of Sociology of Higher Education, Institute of Education, National Research University «Higher School of Economics», Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Ksenia A. Vilkova, Junior Research Fellow and Postgraduate Student, Centre of Sociology of Higher Education, Institute of Education, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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