Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Motivating eLearners, Pt. 2: Approach Matters

In the previous installment of this blog on motivating elearners, we talked about the teachers' role (1. encouragement, 2. a schedule, 3. setting expectations), but I think the fire is lit long before that.

First of all, if we expect online learning to be a priority for adult learners, then that requires adult educators to make it their priority as well.  Our organizational culture sets the tone. We're aiming high instead of reducing our outlook on what is possible in adult ed to the lowest common denominator. Easier said than done, I know. Especially after days on end of the seeing the same level learners with the same set of challenges, it's easy to get stuck in a role with an established outlook.  It starts by marketing a concept and getting everyone on staff on board. 

4) It's not you, it's them: Or, maybe I've got that reversed.  We can't gauge the effectiveness of our approach to distance ed by the results we have (or haven't) gotten by inviting our traditional classroom learners to study online. If they didn't come in to sign up for online learning, they won't likely be motivated to put in the time and make it work. Blended learning is awesome, but it's rarely a gateway experience to independent study. One way to address this issue is through targeted marketing toward technologically savvy learners. Does your local Social Services Department have a button advertising your GED program and its online learning options? Why not? We can't wait for the demand for distance ed to walk through the door. It's already out there (probably buying phoney credentials online). Go get them!

5) Reframe the notion of going 'back to school': We have to change our messaging and promote ourselves as innovative providers of multi-media learning. Adult ed offers flexible  services to meet anyone's needs, regardless of busy schedules. On demand testing is coming with the computer-based GED test. On demand everything else will need to follow. And for those who don't quite qualify in terms of digital literacy or basic skills, we need to provide instruction that transitions them onto the learning highway and into the fast-lane of self-direction in a hurry.  It will alleviate teachers' workloads and grow your organization's impact. If that means tackling digital literacy as a basic skill along with reading, writing and 'rithmetic, let's do it.  In ABE/GED classes and during initial orientation periods, we must provide computer literacy instruction to enable learners to participate in the opportunity that computer-based instruction holds. 

6) A support network of internet access: Distance learning usually means that the learning takes place on the learners' terms, as in time and place. But, there's a tendency to assert control and manage variables.  What the heck is a "distance learning center" anyways?  Seems a little contradictory to me.  Online learning should be decentralized.  But for many learners, anyplace closer to home saves time and gas money and removes barriers to participation.  Every computer lab and community partner can play a role in your distance ed plans if they're willing to host your learners who don't have internet access at home. Libraries are key.  One-stops.  Friends and relatives' houses too. If internet access is still inconsistent, then blended learning may be their best bet for the time being.

I think we're getting closer to identifying the essential ingredients for elearner motivation.  Some aspects are innate or intrinsic; the learner already possesses the aptitude and attitude to be successful. We just have to meet their needs. Other motivational techniques involve an educator's persuasive input.  Either way, opportunities to grow adult education in the web-based environment are at our disposal.  In my opinion, the third and last installment of motivating learners is the most important. And, it's the area that adult educators have the most trouble with.  I'll give you a hint: If I had a hammer...(commence whistling and stay tuned for part 3)

HeyHere's part 3: An Inspiring Experience


  1. You have taken a different approach based on logistics. I know that you make an important point. There are many students (and instructors) who are suddenly required to function in the online environment without adequate (or sometimes any) preparation. It is a tall order both for faculty and students to become familiar with a learning management system. The stress of trying to cope with learning the system as well as the content surely makes many students give up. In addition, lack of skills, knowledge and/or prep time can cause a good instructor to be a lot less effective than might be.
    Nancy Bickford-Jordan, Ph.D.

    1. How did I miss this great comment for almost three months? Great insights, Nance. The sudden requirement of computer-based instruction can make things awkward and create attrition if it's not done with confidence. Maybe i just saw the Hobbit last night, but blended learning, digital literacy and computer-based testing is creating "an unexpected journey" for many teachers and students. I'm wondering what we can/should do to make that transition smoother. Thanks for bringing it up, Nance.


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