By Kristof Tomej
There is a general recognition that learning motivation in an online classroom is quite different than in a traditional classroom. But in order to promote a more comprehensive and evidence-based use of online tools in higher education, we need a better understanding of the nuances of these differences. The experiences of the Covid-19 lockdowns, where the teaching and learning processes moved online, provided a unique source for insights. In the autumn months of 2020, I was teaching a master-level course, where part of the term was taught in an online format to some students and the traditional classroom-based format to others. The uniqueness of this setup inspired me to systematically inquire into the development of my students’ learning motivation, and compare it between the two teaching formats. For this, I used the usual course evaluations, tutor reports, and two motivation measurements using Keller’s Instructional Materials Motivation Survey.
It was somewhat unsurprising that the “online” students were generally unhappy about a global pandemic forcing them to take the course without physical proximity with their teachers and classmates. Technical issues, often beyond the control of either teachers and students, were particularly demotivating. As teachers, we tried to stimulate the students by introducing (what we thought were) exciting new online tools. But my inquiry showed that it was not as much the novelty of these tools as the teachers’ demonstrated caring for the interests of students that helped their motivation. Interestingly, the “classroom” students found digital tools more motivating than the “online” students. For the latter, the greatest increase in motivation came after being able to meet and work together with their classmates in-person. So could it be that the most motivating thing in online teaching and learning is the offline social learning activities?
In my TLI article, I delve into details of this inquiry and bring my findings into the discussion on motivation and online teaching in contemporary higher education.
Find the TLI article here.
Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash, https://unsplash.com/photos/p8DjPfqEhW0