Five Easy to Implement Strategies to Make Your Students ENJOY Learning

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You can ask yourself what makes you wake up in the morning? (It might be your work or your dog desperately willing to go for a morning walk.) But we want you to think of what makes you WANT to get out of bed? (Is it your Saturday trip to the mountains or maybe a DIY project you’ve been working on lately?). Whatever it is, it drives you to do, whatever it is you do.

People are driven by either extrinsic or intrinsic motivation. Things such as money, promotion, or praise are extrinsic motivators. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is based on joy, enthusiasm and strong will.

“Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.” (Coon & Mitterer, 2010)

How can we apply principles of intrinsic motivation into online learning? How can you create the environment which will strongly support your students’ inner will to learn?

You can enrich your students’ learning experience by using these 5 easy to implement strategies in any activity you plan and design.


From extrinsic motivators…

…To intrinsic motivators.

1. Get students involved in their course from the very start

As you are motivated to teach, you can motivate your students to learn. The first strategy is to focus on sparking their attention and curiosity in your first activity. This can be done as an ‘introduce yourself’, ‘share your own experience’, ‘search for the hints’, ‘explore the course’, etc…
For example, if your course is “Introduction to Interior Design”, your students can introduce themselves by sharing a picture of their own home design or their desired home design. They can also share something about themselves. Another example can be “Explore your city” when they take a picture of the awesome interior design at the local café and share it with other students in the course. There are endless ways to do this!

2. Give your students opportunities to make their own choice

Whenever possible, offer your students choices. In some cases, your students may need to follow formal requirements, limiting your options to create activities. If this is the case, you can make the course much more engaging by designing additional and voluntary activities. Your students can choose which of them they’d like to complete. The choice is theirs.
For example, you designed the course about English Idioms. You are required to create the activity with the standardized quiz (and you can’t change the content). What you can do is to create additional activities which will be directly connected to the course outcomes but in different ways. An activity can be: “Choose one of the listed idioms and create as many analogies as you can. The more original, the better.”

3. Encourage your students’ creativity and creative thinking

Traditional teaching and learning is based on “what is right and what is wrong” or “fixed guidelines, How To…”. These approaches might significantly suppress their creative thinking. On the other hand, these guidelines are needed and have their specific role, e.g. law, regulations, procedures, Code of Practice, technical manuals, etc.
What are the benefits of creative thinking? How can you design and facilitate the creative environment? Whenever possible, offer your students activities where they have opportunity to explore, search for alternatives, learn to look at a problem from different perspectives, generate new ideas and solutions, new approaches, initiate discussions. It is important to allow students to share all kinds of ideas without casting any judgments.
For example, you are designing the course including Government Policies, Procedures and Guidelines, particularly Work Health & Safety. You are designing the activity “Identify Hazards”. So you let your students explore their own home environment and take a picture of the potential hazard. Or they can brainstorm all the possible consequences of broken jacket zipper.

4. Provide your students with challenges, mysteries, teasers and thought provoking ideas

Being challenged means to step out of the comfort zone, to do something out of ordinary or to be asked to do something that is just right above your students’ knowledge, skills and abilities. Your students become much more motivated if they are not bored neither frustrated. In other words, if the course is neither too easy nor too difficult. Challenging activities, mysteries, teaser and thought provoking ideas intrinsically motivate your students to learn by exploring their own abilities and experiencing success.
For example, your students are doing the course “Running Techniques” and they have reached the level “intermediate”. The activity “Run a Marathon” would be too much above their level of competence. On the other hand, the activity “Run 100m” would not be challenging enough but boring instead as it is far below their skills. The activity reflecting their actual level could be “Run 1km around the park”.


5. Give your course “the X Factor”

Students tend to repeat activities and learning experiences in which they encountered positive feelings. What these feelings and experiences are? Being successful, being challenged, being supported and encouraged and being trusted. And, of course, being excited about the next step or activity. So how can you create a course hat has the X factor?

Facilitator’s DOs: be enthusiastic, reply to every comment, like your students’ comments and ideas, make it a game, treat your students as eager and responsible, trust them, make them explore, experience and discover on their own, let them be active, praise them (verbally or by virtual “high five”), encourage them, ask about their opinions without judgment. And of course, have a sense of humor. That makes a HUGE difference.
For example, you created a course with great content, graphic design and crafted engaging and meaningful activities. But…Your course is “quiet”. Your students might be too shy to be the first to “talk”. In any case, it is very important to take initiative in the beginning. You can send positive announcements to bring your students to the course, upload your own pictures, or ask them questions. Once your students feel confident enough, they will be excited to contribute and learn with/from each other.
Which strategy do YOU use to motivate your students (online or face-to-face)? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments area below. 

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