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Keeping Students Motivated While Online Learning

Let’s add to the list of 2020 challenges, shall we? We need to find a way to keep students motivated while teaching online. It’s hard enough to do at times in the classroom and now we don’t have our physical presence to help. So…how do we do it?

Don’t worry, you have more tricks in your toolbelt than you realize.


There’s a variety of tricks you can use to help students who are both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated.

First, look at how students are typically motivated at school. It’s a variety of things. Some of the biggest factors are:

1) the students are interested in what they are learning

2) fear of/learning from failure

3) feeling their teachers care

4) outside factors- such as family and friends knowing their grades.

Of course there are more but these are some of the most basic.

Now for the fun stuff- how to keep them motivated in the online environment.

Let Them Know You Care

The first thing you should do is make sure you get to know them. Start the year off by having them fill out a questionnaire with the most basic questions. Any pets? Favorite movie? Favorite band? What was the best part of their summer? What do they want to be when they grow up? It can be time consuming but try to answer each student with something personal. Let them know you have similar interests. It’s a small thing at first but it sets you up for the year. Check back on their answers occasionally to start conversations. Your student loves marvel movies? Let them know how excited you are when the new one comes out! They will be amazed how much you care about them outside the classroom.

Set Their Own Goals

Now that you’ve gotten to know them a little more on a basic level, time to get to know them a little but more. Ask them to fill out a paper about their goals. What are they hoping to learn in class? What are their goals outside of class? Whenever possible, revert back to their goals. Let them know when a lesson is going to relate directly to their personal goal.

Create a Leaderboard

Find activities they can do at home. Most students can walk, run, bike, swim play basketball etc. Use that to your advantage! Use apps like MapMyWalk, Sworkit, or HomeCourt to see their progress. If students can’t do that ask parents to send verification of their activity. Create a Leaderboard for each category of activity the students do at home. Each week post student achievements on a Leaderboard. Allow the winner of each category to skip a quiz or assignment.

Side note- be sure to walk them through how to create an account in each app so they don’t accidently pay for something they don’t need.

Give Timely Feedback

Stay on top of them after an assignment or activity. Try to keep up with your grading as much as possible. Students notice that more than we realize. If we quickly return their work- with feedback- they are more likely to do it (on time).

Keep Them Updated

As long as you’re staying on top for timely feedback- let it work both ways. Let students know that you don’t have assignments of theirs. Once they know that you are on the look-out they will be more motivated to not procrastinate or skip assignments.

Use Variety

Try to keep them interested by using a wide range of assessments. Anything from having them film themselves, find a youtube video and have them create questions to ask their classmates, or ask them to analyze a play. Get creative and keep them on their toes!

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