Online learning has expanded due to the quarantine imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Online learning offers a new world of opportunities to those who want to learn something new, gain a credential, or finish that degree program. However, some online programs have demonstrated low completion rates, with as many as 95 percent leaving in the first week (Ahearn, 2019) The motivation to stay enrolled and complete a course can be a challenge. How do you increase student motivation for online learning?
If your goal is having more students finish a learning experience, an effective strategy can be making students complete an activity that asks them to reflect on how they will apply what they learn and why they are prepared for this experience. When you build a sense of selectivity and personalization into online learning, people generally value the experience more.
Online learning can be isolating, especially when faced with additional coursework. Provide students with a forum to connect with fellow students. It doesn’t have to be the "dreaded" discussion board. Be creative when asking students to communicate on a board or forum. Students connecting with students provide peer support and reduces isolation. For instructors tutoring online material, building in ways to connect with others is vital to achieving those completion rates. Enhancing faculty support to students is vital in increasing retention rates (Bawa 2016). Some students believe the rigor of the course helps maintain motivation due to constant pressure, the standards from the tests and exams, and the expectations from the program curriculum (Berrett 2015).
Many times, online learning can appear daunting. By charting progress the achievements will be more evident and the course not as endless as it may appear. Having a small reward at the end of a module is another motivator for completing a course section. Several programs have built-in progress monitors on a traffic light system, and some have pop-ups to remind students the end of the module is near. Having an orientation program and ensuring students know what to expect is another key factor in improving retention rates (Bawa 2016). Wilson and Allen (2013) found that instructors need to make more of a conscious effort to engage students taking online courses to achieve retention rates.
Encourage students to discuss the online learning program with others. Communicating with family members helps them understand the commitment needed to complete an online program. This is all part of a support network that helps keep students going while studying. For instructors, having an orientation program to the courses helps students realize what is expected of them and the amount of additional work required. It allows students to set realistic goals so they do not become overwhelmed and give up. (Morgan 2016). For instructors, using motivational behavioral techniques in place of routine teaching methods helps retain students and keep them motivated on a distance learning course (Stanford 2016).
Online learning requires different methods of working to complete the course and stay motivated. Most of all, it’s important for Instructors to build in known methods for motivating and retaining students into their programs. Finally, learning is a lifelong process, and new ways of keeping people engaged and delivering educational courses are emerging all the time, which need to be integrated into programs.
Author: Dr. Anne-Marie Fiore
Dr. Fiore is a highly technological curriculum specialist who champions student achievement and faculty development, fostering an environment of continuous improvement and consistently exceeding performance goals. Proactive leader and team player with proven success in building effective partnerships and elevating instructional practices through innovative curriculum design. Anne-Marie combines ability in online teaching with learning and development methodologies to create high performing academic teams. Dr. Fiore has a long record of accomplishment for applying business and quantitative acumen and is adept at using data to ensure operational excellence and quality of online programs.