The Learners: Motivation
Motivation is the energy directed at particular behaviors. When a person is motivated to learn, they are engaged in course materials and activities.
Motivation is one of the most important factors in learning. Without a positive disposition toward and commitment to learning, students are likely to fall behind, drop out, or do poorly in online courses.
Motivating online learners is particularly difficult because the instructor must rely on the approaches that can be applied at a distance.
Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation comes from within a person including personal, professional and academic desires; the need to conform or succeed; or the thrill of a challenge. Online students are more likely to be intrinsically motivated if they:
- are interested in the topic,
- see the value in course content and activities,
- believe that their energies impact whether they succeed,
- feel like they are in control of their own learning
Extrinsic motivation is driven by external forces and structures such as increases in pay for course credit and rewards for program completion. Consider how you might incorporate the following elements to increase extrinsic motivation:
- Reward students who meet learning goals with good grades
- Praise students who complete activities and discussions
- Encourage students to provide kudos for their classmates
What motivates you?
How is motivation different in face-to-face versus online courses?
What challenges do you face in motivating online students?
Suggestions for Motivating Online Learners
Motivate your online learners through ongoing encouragement, course clarity, meaningful materials, and learner engagement.
Motivate through Ongoing Encouragement
- Establish ongoing communication with your class through announcements or personal email
- Incorporate text in your course materials that convey the idea that course materials will be useful in promoting quality of life, job satisfaction, etc.
- Use humor and light-hearted approaches to increase comfort
- Remind students they're saving time by not traveling to a face-to-face class
- Ask students to enjoy the freedom of online courses
- Provide reminders about the schedule and praise students for staying on schedule
- Encourage students to establish a personal reward system
Motivate through Course Clarity
- Clearly state course requirements with emphasis on learner control over success
- Provide clear assignments and assessments
- Provide specific, quick, feedback, encouragement, and grading
- Identify specific due dates. Some students need to structure of due dates motivating.
- Be flexible enough to accommodate emergencies and specific problems
- Provide learner support through scaffolding assignments
- Encourage student questioning and sharing of concerns
Motivate through Meaningful Materials
- Place emphasis on activities that will meet course goals and aren't perceived as "busy work"
- Provide varied real-world examples
- Use authentic examples, timely resources, and real-world data that promote interest and practicality
- Provide multiple channels of communication (i.e., text, graphics, audio, video) so learners have choice in learning
- Personalize activities and build in flexibility to meet individual needs
Motivate through Learner Engagement
- Appeal to student life experiences.
- Apply course content to real-world situations
- Provide students with choices in terms of topics
- Allow students varied ways to share their understandings (i.e., text, visual, audio)
- Require ongoing participation through the course
- Incorporate interactive features that involve learners in practice, reflective thinking, and problem-solving.
To learn more about motivation, go to Virtual Information Inquiry: Motivation.
While some of the suggestions for motivation can be built into the course, others require an ongoing commitment by the instructor.
When focusing on content development, it's easy for developers for forget about the importance of motivation. Brainstorm a list of reminders as you develop online content and activities.
Motivation is particularly challenging in online courses.
Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic.
Motivate your online learners through
- ongoing encouragement,
- course clarity,
- meaningful materials, and
- learner engagement.