Lots of teachers consider online studying less effective than the classical way of learning. They definitely have reasons to think so: a teacher can’t control students during the lesson, he or she can’t read the nonverbal clues that may indicate that the students become disengaged or bored and – finally – it is hard to coordinate the schedules of all the pupils.
Still, online learning is becoming more and more common and the raise of its popularity is already inevitable. Both students and teachers prefer to stay in the comfort of their homes (or even in their home country in case of international courses). The classes are no longer limited by physical restrictions, the teachers can pay their attention to more students without losing the quality of feedback.
How online students differ from ones coming to class
The students preferring online learning are also behaving unlike the traditional ones. Sometimes they don’t concentrate as much as the students who come to the classes physically – they know that they can pause the lecture or cease reading the tasks any time they need and then return to them after some time. Online students are also listening less thoroughly – because they can re-listen the particular part anytime.
This doesn’t mean that online students are less attentive or not as eager to learn as offline ones. The only conclusion that can be made – some methods of teaching should be reinvented to fit the modern world and the paradigm of online study.
Common tactics applied to engage students
One of the important milestones is schedule. Online studying allows each student to pick their own schedule. Morning people will start at 8 AM, those who work can do their lessons after they come home from the job and those who prefer to wake up at noon can happily start studying at midnight. Sounds perfect, but needs a bit of adjusting from the teacher's side.
The teachers who are used to checking tasks right after the lesson have to wait a full day until they can grade them now. Some people have more time to do them, some, who come later, have less time – this creates inequality and may cause tension between the teacher, who prefers the classical model and the students who protect their schedules.
Teachers’ tricks to motivate their online learners
Shifting schedule is one of the most important and powerful motivation factors. Under no circumstances should teachers take it away – because the effectiveness of study will drop immediately and dramatically.
Offline students are, on average, less motivated by the time and place factor – they don’t have the “I’ve already come here from home, so if I didn’t listen it would be in vain” factor. Robbing them of the main benefit of online study will do no good to overall desire to learn.
Another important factor of motivation is the right method of presenting the information. Modern young people surf the Internet and search for cool content. They don’t mind if this content will be both cool and educational. Lots of people find it difficult to deal with longreads, endless diagrams and figures, choosing online tools and apps and using collections of essay topics to understand their task better. So, to reach peak motivation, the teacher should not only present the material but do it in an interesting manner. Have a look at the Discovery, Viasat or NatGeo channels and sites and you’ll be surprised how much science they put into our heads without us even noticing it! There are lots of public lectures records or amateur channels that don’t have such budgets, but still can make learning fun. Teachers turn to copying these models, and they prove successful.
One more thing that online learning is missing is teamwork and socializing. College or university aren’t only places to sit and study. They are also platforms for making new friends, chatting and having fun during breaks. This creates positive associations between the university and happy emotions and can become an additional motivation factor to come and study.
How creating emotional bonds can help
It is hard to substitute live conversation with all nonverbal layers and emotional atmosphere, but it’s totally possible to recreate something similar to it. Teachers look at the example of MMORPG guilds – people are making strong bonds and creating viable communities there, even if they have never seen each other for all their lives!
Group chatting, gamifying the studying process, creating “guilds” – all that makes studying much more lively. Of course, here the teacher has to be in charge of these processes – because human psychics is still not designed to automatically group online, teaming easily only in real life. But if the teacher manages to do that, the multiplied energy of the community will benefit them greatly! Gaming guilds are filling the whole Wikis of their games, inventing strategies, testing them and even creating their own additions to the games. Actually, they are learning together. The task of a good teacher is to use the same mechanics, but not for the game but for their own subject.