I write this as my new semester begins. As an online College Instructor, my schedule is five eight week courses throughout the year. Summer Semester is just beginning and my usual worries kick in.
How do I motivate this class? Is there something I missed last semester that would have helped Sam or Will understand the course materials better? The questions have me reviewing my lessons and reworking them.
That’s a good thing, right?
At some point, we have to trust that we know the curriculum and forge ahead.
So, what should I do to motivate my students?
Be there for them.
I find that simply by being there, keeping my presence in the web portal, is often just what they need.
I do three simple things.
I am online daily. I may just be logged in waiting for emails, but students can see I am available to them.
I grade papers in a timely fashion. By giving feedback within 48 hours, they know I care that they are learning the material. Feedback consists of encouragement for their effort, what was completed well and correctly, and a demonstration of errors and how to fix them.
The last thing I do is send out a mass email weekly. The first item on the agenda is praise. I believe this is different than the idea of praising without accountability. However, since students never see me, praise motivates them faster than anything else. The rest of the email is a recap of the most prevalent problems students faced in that week’s assignment. Lastly, I direct them to sources and to contact me individually.
Does it work?
But, students seem more eager to ask for assistance once they see I am available.
Sadly, not all of my students do well enough to pass, something that would delight me greatly, but those I do reach and assist, are grateful for me taking the time to just be there for them.