Motivating online learners

Robert Trosten
Robert Trosten

Learning online, it seems, has become the new normal.   With most countries around the globe having to deal with the ongoing pandemic, educators have had to rethink the way in which they provide and deliver courses.  

Not so long ago, online learning, gaming and other online activities like playing at a SlotoCash Casino were done on a more occasional basis. Today online learning has become the standard. Some learning providers were already doing some of their delivery online so for them the transition to complete online learning has been relatively smooth.  But many schools, universities and colleges have been forced to completely rethink how they are going to present courses.  

There has been much innovation and creative thinking but there has also been much frustration and many have struggled to deliver online courses, finding it difficult to create learning plans and to find appropriate material to download.  This change to online learning is likely to be long-term and therefore long-term solutions need to be found. 

This is likely to be the new normal, even once the pandemic is behind us. Even though some courses will always have a need for some face-to-face instruction, online learning seems to be racing ahead.  Prior to the pandemic there was a growing technology sector of online learning and it was increasing yearly at around 15%.

Some colleges, like the National Extension College even began distance learning before the Open University started.  Methods of learning have changed significantly since the early days of distance learning and new and exciting ways of keeping students engaged and motivated have been developed.  Keeping students motivated is vital and particularly if they are not in a classroom setting and learning from home. Below are 10 tips that can be particularly helpful in this endeavor.

Making a plan

Enough time needs to be set aside for planning the course. It is important that students are able to monitor how they are progressing so self-assessments and other activities need to be incorporated into the courses so they are able to do this.

There is much involved in developing online courses but there are a number of different types that should be considered:

  • Video conferencing is a way to mimic face to face teaching.
  • Self-study courses that provide feedback within the course itself and do not require a tutor.
  • Creating structured courses that are based on a cohort model, learning with a group of students together, sharing resources and gaining support from one another.
  • Structured courses based on a roll-on roll-off model and with support from tutors.
  • It is also possible to create a mixture of all the above.

Understanding and helping with Technology

Many students may need help with technology issues.  Whether it is having access to a computer, or needing to share one or needing help to understand systems like Facetime and Zoom.  Most students adjust very quickly and begin to enjoy the freedom that learning online gives them.  

Students come to appreciate the fact that they have the possibility to go back and check their work and it also allows them to make errors privately.   Learning courses online offers the possibility to learn from your mistakes.

Styles of Learning

It is best to employ more than one learning style. For example, some students have difficulty if they need to read too much text, especially those who prefer learning by action.   Audio is also a possibility and, until recently, very much underrated.  

For instance, students can search for sites that have audio books if they are studying something which has some literature.  This can often provide different ways of understanding the text and can be listened to while doing other things or while on the go.

Knowing what the Goals are

Each lesson should be outlined very clearly so that goals are known from the outset.   Lessons online need to be far more structured than those in a regular classroom situation where the discussion often changes direction.   

Preparation of online content is going to take far more time to prepare than regular classroom lessons.   However, teachers can share their resources online rather than having to start from scratch and it is also possible to make changes or to update the content.

Teaming up

Encouraging students to get together in pairs and creating chat groups can prove really beneficial.   This can be done with WhatsApp or on Facebook.   Students are then able to chat and have a dialogue with one another, gaining help and support when needed.   

General Resources

General resources should be available to help students in all matters relating to online learning.  Students often require help and guidance concerning essay writing, time management skills and learning independently as well as a whole lot of other things.

Keeping up the pace

Midway through the course student motivation may begin to dwindle. By this time, the excitement of beginning the course and getting through the first assignments has dimmed a little and negative feelings start to edge in.  Students often feel they don’t have enough time, they begin to lose focus and feel they are not progressing.   

Students working from home have all kinds of distractions available to them, from watching Netflix to reorganizing their living space.   It is really important to keep a dialogue going with them via, social media, phone or email.


Knowing how to give constructive feedback on tutor work assignments, especially for students working online is a real skill. It is important that the student receives more than just a very brief comment or a checkmark at the bottom of the work.  Unlike a regular classroom situation, no face-to-face discussion can take place so more detailed feedback is necessary.

You need to go into detail as to why the work is good, giving an explanation of what is done well.  On the other hand, if there are problems you need to explain where and how the student needs to improve their work, giving examples if it is possible.  Your response should always be encouraging and optimistic.

Online Presentations – Webinars

If you are working with a group of students it is possible to have webinars in order to keep in touch. Webinars are good to share general information and give support or can focus on a specific learning topic.  It is possible to record these sessions so students not able to attend can visit them later or students are able to go back and review information discussed.

Human Connection

Keep in mind that your students are real people with real lives and problems.  It can be important and helpful to create a human connection and at the same time remaining professional.  Being understanding and flexible if, say, there is a time management problem, should be fine if and when it is possible.

Learning online is open to everyone.  Fortunately, online learning has proved a lifesaver during social distancing and means that learning has been able continue even when universities and colleges have had to close.  

Regular classroom learning and online learning both have what to offer. Face-to-face learning will remain a constant.  However, online learning is likely to continue after the lockdown has ceased to be necessary.  Learning providers now have to accept that online learning is very much part of the new normal and they must make this part of their new agenda.