Motivation strategies for online engagement – reflections from the last Academy Forum in Semester One

For the last Academy Forum in Semester One we chose one of the most common topics raised by teaching staff; how to motivate students, particularly when it comes to online learning?

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The first part of the session was a general discussion which started from reflection on when we feel most motivated and it revealed factors such as:

  • When there is external pressure (deadline) 
  • When it is enjoyable
  • When it involves other people 
  • When the tasks are not that difficult, important or multifaceted
  • When you receive positive feedback

Attendees also shared their strategies for keeping themselves motivated:

  • Switching between tasks
  • Breaking big projects into smaller tasks
  • Asking yourself why do you need to do it?
  • Completing a smaller, manageable task and using the ‘success high’ and motivation that comes with it to work on something else
  • Complaining less about having to do it and just getting on with it
  • Using lists and being able to cross things off
  • Setting realistic targets 
  • Looking after yourself (trying to see work in perspective)

As well as what contributes to student motivation based on their teaching experience:

  • Getting good grades and positive feedback 
  • Growth mindset – not being so afraid of failure (not taking the learning so personal)
  • Remembering why they are doing it and what for
  • Making things interesting – avoiding boredom
  • Being passionate/excited about the subject (and how having even one student like this helps with the motivation of the entire cohort) 
  • Giving them suggestions, but also freedom to study in the way that fits with them
  • Feeling part of the learning community (belonging)
  • Seeing the importance of activity
  • Validation and encouragement

We also discussed some of the barriers inhibiting student motivation:

  • Fear – being afraid of not being good enough, failure and comparing their own abilities with others
  • Not having clear enough instructions, not being able to understand what they are supposed to do
  • Personal issues – difficulties in their home lives etc. 
  • Disappointment in their own achievements against their expectations
  • Peer influence
  • Complaining
  • Fatigue 

Lastly staff shared their strategies for motivating students which included:

  • Using discussion boards for communication with classmates and the tutor
  • Organising digital seminars 
  • Emphasising the purpose/importance of the activities 
  • Linking all activities to the learning outcomes/assessment
  • Using tools such as blogs or discussion boards to facilitate communication and a sense of community
  • Giving students choice, but within structure that gives them a reassurance
  • ‘Investing’ time in giving students opportunities to bond with each other and you as a tutor at the beginning of the module/year

The second part of the session focused specifically on the self-determination theory of motivation. In three groups, corresponding to the three components of the theory, attendees discussed how they already foster either autonomy, competence, or relatedness in their teaching and how they could develop it further. We have previously shared a blog post on facilitating intrinsic motivation in students from the self-determination theory perspective.

We wanted to thank all staff for the incredible engagement with the Academy Forum sessions this year! Make sure to book the following dates into your calendars for Semester Two:

Hope you will have an enjoyable break!

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