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Despite the rapid growth in online learning over the past decade, educators continue to face the challenge of keeping adults students motivated to learn and complete their degree. Many adult learners, already facing an overflowing agenda distended with family and career responsibilities, are often disheartened at the prospect of adding yet another item to their schedule.

Online education platforms and other technologies that accompany them can sometimes push adult learners out of their cherished comfort zone and into a state of lower engagement. In facing this inevitable cycle, crafty educators can explore solutions to improve intrinsic and extrinsic motivation within adult learners to heighten the online learning experience.

This poster I presented at the Sloan-C Conference in November discusses many of the core challenges and ideas on this topic.

How to stay motivated graphic

The poster shows how we can increase motivation in online learning. The concepts shown are supported by research in this area, including from Hacker and Niederhause (2000), Johnson and Aragon (2002), and Wang (2006).

Two different bodies of research are discussed. First, Behavioral, Cognitive, & Social Learning Theory suggests motivation is increased through:

  • Creating real-life context
  • Motivating the student
  • Providing hands-on activities
  • Avoiding information overload
  • Encouraging social interaction
  • Addressing individual differences
  • Promoting student reflection

Following this is Wang’s research, which shows online adult learners are motivated by:

  • Positive comments
  • Consistent and frequent feedback
  • Synchronized tools
  • Step-by-step notes
  • Student-to-student interaction
  • Assignments to demonstrate practical skills

Both of these bodies of research summarize key points to help increase and maintain the motivation level of those taking courses online.

Editor’s note: Dr. Katey Baruth has recently been named to the editorial board of the International Journal of Psychology and Counseling, a peer reviewed monthly publication. On behalf of everyone at Post University, we congratulate Dr. Baruth.