In this screen, we will look at two categories of issues frequently experienced by students in online learning – the problem of maintaining motivation while enrolled in an online course, and the technical difficulties they may experience when taking an online course.

In this section, we will look at two categories of issues frequently experienced by students in online learning – the problem of maintaining motivation while enrolled in an online course, and the technical difficulties they may experience when taking an online course.

Student motivation

Without the physical contact and classroom attendance of face-to-face teaching, maintaining student engagement, motivation and persistence can be a key problem in online teaching. Reduced motivation can lead to high attrition rates, especially in large online courses.

How can online teachers support their students to help to ensure that they stay engaged with the course, stick to deadlines and complete their required assignments? The advice and strategies given throughout this course will all contribute towards this, but some specific suggestions are given in the next activity!

In the following activity, consider the question, make a note of your thoughts, then click the 'View feedback' button to reveal our suggestions. Use 'Next' to move to the next question.
Consider the following questions. In each case, make a note of your thoughts, then continue on to consider our suggestions.

Useful links

JISC TechDis (UK advisory service on technologies for inclusion): www.jisctech...

PROGRAMME | Teaching Online
COURSE | Being a successful online teacher
UNIT | 2 : Building an effective learning community
PAGE TITLE | Troubleshooting student issues

Question 1 of 2:

How can teachers try to keep students engaged and motivated throughout an online course?

Feedback:

  • In the learning management system (LMS)/virtual learning environment (VLE), be sure to provide specific instructions, deadlines, and expected time commitments for all of the learning activities in your online course so your students know what is expected of them straight away
  • Encourage students to tick off tasks as they complete them in the LMS/VLE to focus their attention and motivation
  • Consider using digital badges to recognise and reward student achievement
  • Welcome late enrollers by sending them your introductory online course message and offering to have either a phone conversation or Skype session to help them catch up
  • Use authentic learning activities, utilising real experiences and examples to promote deep learning (consult the 'Useful links' pod at the end of the section for more information on the key elements of authentic learning)
  • Students often require learning accommodations in face-to-face and online courses. Be sure to check to see if your institution has an accommodation policy for online students with learning difficulties or physical disabilities. If it does, then include this policy in your course outline and in your course LMS/VLE.

Question 2 of 2:

How can online teachers actively manage the problem of reduced motivation or persistence amongst online students?

Feedback:

  • Use LMS/VLE statistics to quickly spot whether students are slipping in terms of grades or submitting assignments
  • If a student is experiencing difficulties be sure to contact them directly to discuss and resolve their issues in a timely fashion
  • Use phone or chat, rather than email, if extra support is required
  • If the study and time management issues continue to persist, then refer the student to your institutional student learning services office.

Technical difficulties

It is inevitable that some or many of your students will experience some sort of technical difficulty at some point during an online course. The next activity gives some common examples of these difficulties, and some strategies to help pre-empt/resolve them.

It is inevitable that some or many of your students will experience some sort of technical difficulty at some point during an online course. The next exercise gives some common examples of these difficulties, and some strategies to help pre-empt/resolve them.

In the following activity, match each example of a student technical difficulty on the left with the correct corresponding strategy or solution on the right by clicking on the boxes you wish to connect.
You will now be presented with a list of possible technical difficulties for students, followed by a list of strategies/solutions for these difficulties. Consider which strategy matches with which difficulty, then move on to check if you are correct.

Student difficulties

  1. Course materials not visible to students
  2. Some LMS/VLE features not working for students
  3. Students not familiar with tools required for synchronous sessions
  4. Student experiences computer problems once the course has begun

Strategies and solutions

  1. Check that you have selected the 'Make Course Materials Available' function in the learning management system (LMS)/virtual learning environment (VLE). If you are still experiencing problems, contact your IT department.
  2. If you want to use a particular synchronous communication tool (e.g. Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate), consult with your institution's IT department about the type of support they provide (e.g. student practice sessions, online tutorials, contact phone numbers) and include this information in your welcome message.
  3. Suggest that students contact your IT department. If they are not able to resolve the problem, students may need to access the online course website from a public library or other site providing free computer access.
  4. Check with your IT department to verify what web browsers and versions are required to effectively utilise the course learning management system (LMS)/virtual learning environment (VLE). Ensure that you include these details in your course information.

Now check to see if you are correct.

The correctly matched pairs

  1. Course materials not visible to students:
    Check that you have selected the 'Make Course Materials Available' function in the learning management system (LMS)/virtual learning environment (VLE). If you are still experiencing problems, contact your IT department.
  2. Some LMS/VLE features not working for students:
    Check with your IT department to verify what web browsers and versions are required to effectively utilise the course learning management system (LMS)/virtual learning environment (VLE). Ensure that you include these details in your course information.
  3. Students not familiar with tools required for synchronous sessions:
    If you want to use a particular synchronous communication tool (e.g. Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate), consult with your institution's IT department about the type of support they provide (e.g. student practice sessions, online tutorials, contact phone numbers) and include this information in your welcome message.
  4. Student experiences computer problems once the course has begun:
    Suggest that students contact your IT department. If they are not able to resolve the problem, students may need to access the online course website from a public library or other site providing free computer access.

Your context

Be sure to refer to institution specific information regarding...

The IT Help Desk is usually the first point of contact for most technology and IT-related services on campus. Therefore it is very important that you have a good understanding of how they can help with the smooth running of your online course, and how they will be able to assist the students.

Note: Before referring students to the IT Help Desk, check that the student hasn't already contacted them for assistance. It can be very frustrating for students if they end up in a referral cycle between the teacher and the IT department.

Sharing support for your online students

In the following videos, individuals involved in different online teaching support services explain how they assist academic staff and students at their institutions.

In the following interviews, individuals involved in different online teaching support services explain how they assist academic staff and students at their institutions.

Click 'Play' to watch the video.

Portfolio activity

Make a list of online student support services available through your institution...

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It is very important to take a 'team approach' when teaching an online course. Be sure that you do not take on the role of 'Help Desk' for your online course. There should be a range of online student support services available at your institution: the 'Portfolio activity' to the right will help you to identify the services available at your institution.

It is very important to take a 'team approach' when teaching an online course. Be sure that you do not take on the role of 'Help Desk' for your online course. There should be a range of online student support services available at your institution: the 'Portfolio activity' at the end of this section will help you to identify the services available at your institution.


Useful links

Your context

Be sure to refer to institution specific information regarding online student issues.

Portfolio

Duration: 30 minutes

Make a list of online student support services available through your institution, and the appropriate contact details. If you are not familiar with the services available at your institution, be sure to ask your online course coordinator.

Potential sources of support might include:

  • Student Learning Services department
  • IT Department
  • Library

Use the attached document to record your list, or complete the relevant page of your Teaching Online portfolio.