Here’s what I said (modified) in the walled blog in the CourseSites MOOC today. Thought I would let it out into the open air:
Been reading about motivating online students this week–lots of good stuff first in the Dennen & Bonk article, “We’ll Leave the Light on for You: Keeping Learners Motivated in Online Courses” (2007), and then in a couple of interesting chapters on actual processes and tools with which to accomplish the motivation. As what people like to call subject matter experts, faculty don’t often think about all the skills they will need to conduct an online course successfully, and I can tell you that I have had a couple of courses where half the class was just gone one day. Even though those students are responsible for their part in not communicating with me before leaving, what role did I play in not motivating them before the exodus?
I have tried, since, to be more attentive in my motivation and communication, even though I am one of those introverted teachers who is not naturally gregarious. There is, however, something to the rhythms of a semester that can afflict teacher as well as student. Whether it comes as a flurry of essential meetings, a conference, Spring Break, fluctuations in weather, or a round of heavy grading, teachers are subject to ups and downs that can interfere with the best intentions to keep everything running smoothly, and keep students on task and content.
I can be guilty of letting a day slip by without checking for a message when my other job takes precedence and I am tired in the evening. Then it’s always a relief to look in and see that all is well.
There is not one solution, even provided in these articles, except to take the advice you often give students to pick up and just keep trying. Right now, I’m in that slump of awaiting the last paper and grading a few little things beforehand, checking for messages (everyone’s tired and silent), and kind of feeling like the class is over already. Still I will get to post the final summary of student views on the blog project, the good and the bad, as well as my overview of them. I could use a little motivational encouragement myself.