Online Education: Motivate Students With Creative Tutors and Engaging Activities

E-learning, sometimes known as online learning or blended learning, is now an established teaching practice used by both academic institutions and corporate trainers. In the last few years, massive online open courses (MOOCs), have begun to deliver courses to millions of people globally. Online education has changed the face of learning forever. 

The advantages of reaching huge numbers of students via e-learning are clear, but given that online education needs to meet the needs of very diverse cohorts of learners, how is it possible to keep each and every student motivated? 

Students begin as motivated learners before signing up for online learning. Career advancement is the motivation for some; others are lifelong learners who enjoy the challenge of studying diverse subjects. Some students will join a course with extensive experience and qualifications, while others may be returners who left full-time education decades earlier. Some are confident in internet and keyboard use, while others are new to the concepts. 

Relating to the individual needs of learners is challenging for course developers and online tutors, but is vital for maintaining motivation, leading to successful learning outcomes. It requires experience, empathy, skill and adaptability on the part of the course team. Online education is a creative process – an art. 

Ongoing support is key to sustaining student engagement. Challenging content and appealing presentation are vital to the success of a course, as are both the opportunity to discuss themes and to test progress. Quality visuals and authoritative text assist students in making course choices. However, the relationship between online tutor and students can make a significant difference to keeping students motivated throughout the length of the course. 

One thing has become increasingly clear over recent years: evidence no longer supports the idea of learning styles. Instead, building on what learners already know and listening to their needs is essential, as this is motivating to course participants. Most students find challenging assignments, both multiple-choice and research-based, engaging and stimulating. Another strength of online learning is the potential for motivational group activities, encouraging communication and co-operation. 

A key benefit of e-learning is the potential for student interaction via the medium of online discussion boards. This is highly motivating for many learners. However, other students may feel overwhelmed or excluded, and in this case it requires sensitivity and alertness on the part of the online tutor or moderator to put the student at ease. Some results-oriented learners will be more motivated by the material itself, or by making progress that can be measured. 

Flexibility is another aspect of online learning that can work to the benefit of many students, who feel less pressure when they know they can work at their own pace, helping them to stay motivated. Reassurance from online tutors assists here as well. 

How does the course team know they are succeeding in their aims to keep students motivated? Feedback, using well-designed forms, and ongoing course quality assessment are the principal tools here. Not only does this provide assurance that learner motivation continues to be high, but also it provides a sound basis for future course development.

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