Strategies for Sustaining Students' Motivation

An important role of any instructor is to motivate students to learn. While we might find our own discipline to be fascinating, our students might need a little more encouragement to embrace their studies. So what can we do?

  • Photo of a box of motivation stickersOffer positive reinforcement whenever possible, showing that you care about the success of your entire class.
  • Show patience and flexibility, especially when dealing with students who are juggling their learning goals with busy life demands.
  • Choose the right tone of conversation in online communication to make students feel comfortable with the learning environment, to establish trust in communication, and to reduce feelings of isolation and enhance a sense of community.
  • Provide meaningful feedback on graded assignments with recognition of good work as well as specific suggestions for improvement.
  • Point students to additional resources for remediation (if needed) or further learning (for those interested).
  • Routinely demonstrate how course topics relate to real-world applications. Encourage students to find their own connections, as well, and share those with the class.
  • Take an active role in helping your students think and learn actively through careful task structuring, questioning, and scaffolding.
  • Demonstrate support for student learning by encouraging them to reflect on their online learning experiences and progress towards their learning goals. Have students keep a reflective journal or e-portfolio that monitors this progress.
  • In online discussions, consider:
    • Designing thought-provoking questions to elicit student discussions on the topics of your focus: see Crafting Questions for Online Discussions from ITS
    • Providing a weekly summary of discussion topics to demonstrate your participation
    • Redirecting off-topic discussion through gentle reminders or a recast of the question
    • Assessing messages by both quantity and quality

Want to Learn More?

A faculty member from Drexel University wrote a nice summary of ways to engage students in his article for the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Student Engagement in the Online Classroom." I think you'll recognize many of the strategies we've been discussing in OL 2000!

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