Education

How to keep students motivated

Since 2020 education providers around the world have had to rapidly re-think how they deliver education. Some were already one step ahead of the rest with their own learning platforms. So, for them, the transition has been relatively smooth. Others have responded with agility and imagination, but there are those who have found the transition difficult. Teachers have had to deliver online classes for the first time, whilst many teachers are in the strange position of trying to deliver online whilst also teaching the children of key workers in the physical classroom at the same time!

With government decisions and announcements often happening at very short notice, teachers have had to cobble together learning plans and assignments to download ‘on-the-hoof’. As we now know, this new way of working is not a temporary blip, and things won’t suddenly go back to normal once the covid vaccines have been delivered.

There will always be the need for face-to-face teaching, but online learning is almost certainly here to stay. Even before the pandemic, online learning was growing more than 15% each year.

Staying motivated is essential for all students when in a classroom environment, but it’s even more vital when they are working from home – with all the countless distractions around. We’ve put together a series of tips which will help keep students motivated and enthusiastic. Whether you’re a teacher planning remote learning classes or a parent trying to motivate your children – or both – then here are some ideas for you to make your life easier.

Planning, structure and routine

Leave students to their own devices at home and they’ll probably stay in bed until lunchtime. (Chance would be a fine thing!). If your child is working from home but does not have online lessons, they still need a structure to produce the work they are set to do under their own steam. Give them times to start, just as if they were at school, and factor in break times and a finish time. If you don’t, then your children will probably tend to let all the work mount up and then have to cram it when the deadline is due. Students – especially younger children – thrive on routine, and this slice of discipline will also benefit parents who are currently working from home.

Online classes need to be planned so that students are kept interested, with self-assessments and activities built in so that they can see how they’re progressing.

Technology

Not all students are great when it comes to technology, so some students will need support. Some might not have access to a computer or have to share it with other members of the family and might only be able have access when their parents do not need the computer for their own working from home commitments.

Try and make sure that students (and parents) know how to operate the systems they need.  Zoom and Microsoft Teams are very popular with schools, along with Google Meets. As you would expect, YouTube has many videos to help you overcome any tech difficulties.

Once students get over the initial hurdle with online learning, most adapt quickly and some flourish as they value the facility to go back and check things – and also to make their mistakes in private.

Learning styles

Teachers are advised to vary their approach as, for example, some students do not respond well to reading acres of text. Audio is very undervalued, and if links to audio books are included in lessons, then students can listen whilst doing other things such as travelling and chilling out.

Define goals

Students need to be set defined goals, no matter what their age or type of home learning program they’re on. Online learning needs to be structured towards goals and outcomes. A downside of online content is that it takes more time to prepare than face-to-face lessons, but with shared online resources, teachers can pool everything all benefit from it. These resources can also be easily updated and improved.

Study buddies

If students can work together without the need for a teacher to be there all the time, it gives them some valuable social interaction as well as helping them to tackle projects. Pair up children so that they have study buddies, and you’ll find that they instantly become more engaged. This is especially true of younger children who love interaction with their classmates.

If you’re a teacher, then it’s useful to create chat groups and pair up students with study buddies. There are lots of different ways to do this, including with WhatsApp and Facebook. A forum is another good way students can communicate with each other and can ask for support and help for their projects. Some older students set up their own groups too.

Resources

Students can take time to get to grips with online learning, so make sure there are plenty of resources available for them to access. For example: How to write an essay, How to upload work onto Google Meets – or whatever system you use, etc… If students come to a standstill due to a lack of information, then not only is it stressful, it’s also demoralising.

Photo: Wichayeda Suwanachun / Shutterstock.com

Keeping going

Students stuck at home can easily be distracted by a multitude of other things such as Netflix, social media, computer games, online shopping and more. So, keeping in touch with students who are working from home is vital for teachers. Students need deadlines, new assignments and feedback as often as possible.

Working from home is a novelty at first, but this soon wears off when each day seems to be the same as the last. Having a solid structure for home learning will help stop students becoming despondent. Keeping students of all ages busy is vitally important for their mental well-being.

Feedback

When students are in a real classroom the teacher can mark work and add a brief comment, and there is the opportunity to discuss any issues with the student face-to-face. With online learning, the student is in a class of one and so needs much more detailed feedback.

If a student’s work is good, then they need to know why it’s good, and similarly if a piece of work needs improvement they’ll need to know how. Students need encouragement – and criticism needs to be constructive – for them to keep motivated. That applies to whether the feedback is from a teacher or parent.

Problems

It’s easy to forget that students are people with their own lives and problems. Parents and teachers alike need to make that human connection. Young people are suffering from a lack of social interaction with their peers (even though social media is easily accessible, it is really not the same) and there may be other things which they are struggling to handle – such as relatives being ill or worse due to the virus. Try to be understanding and try to be flexible.

Online learning has the power to create a level playing field. People with disabilities, in prison, people with irregular work patterns and more. Social distancing is not an issue either, so in many ways, it’s the perfect learning method. With resources online, students can also create their own work schedule to suit themselves. Students at university have adapted particularly well in circumstances which have seen their universities close.

Online safety

With children spending a lot of time online as they work from home, online safety is even more important than before. If children are accessing the internet more frequently, they need to know how to navigate safely and controls need to be put in place.

Younger children

Setting up playdates with their friends via Skype or Zoom can help while children are in self isolation. It also gives parents some time to get on with their own workloads.

Exercise

Exercise is not only important for a child’s physical health but is also important for their mental well-being. According to the official NHS guidance, there are two types of physical activity that children and young people need to do each week in order to stay healthy. This includes aerobic exercise such as running, and exercises to strengthen their muscles and bones. The advice is to aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day across the week. The guidance also advises parents to reduce the time their children spend sitting and lying down and break up the length of time they spend not moving with some form of activity such as walking or bike riding.

It is understandable that parents are keen for their children to make the most of any work sent to them from school, but it’s important to remember that parents and carers are not teachers. So try not to put undue pressure on yourself or become too anxious about the situation. It’s important to spend time (if you can) building relationships, enjoying shared activities and reassuring children.

As a parent you can always seek advice from your child’s teacher if you are struggling with home learning.

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