Purpose: This study extends the literature on the effectiveness of e-learning by investigating the role of student engagement on perceived learning effectiveness (PLE) in the context of Indian higher education. Further, the impact of personal factors (Internet self-efficacy (ISE)) and environmental factors (information, system and service quality parameters) on various dimensions of student engagement (behavioral, emotional and cognitive) is studied through the lens of social cognitive theory (SCT). Design/methodology/approach: An online management information systems (MIS) course is delivered to a batch of 412 postgraduate students. An online survey was conducted to measure the factors affecting their PLE. In addition to the survey, a summative assessment is conducted to evaluate the students in terms of their marks to assess their achievements (actual learning). Covariance-based structural equation modeling (CB-SEM) is used to validate the developed research model. Findings: It is discovered that the IS (information system) quality parameters (environmental factors) positively impact PLE. The ISE affects the PLE through the mediating effect of all the dimensions of student engagement. Furthermore, there exists a positive relationship between PLE and student marks. Originality/value: This study develops a research model using personal and environmental factors to understand PLE through the lens of SCT and then empirically validates it. The psychological process from the students' ISE to the PLE is explained through the mediating effects of various dimensions of engagement. Further, it is found that the PLE is positively related to student marks. © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited.