Students around the world have struggled with the shift to online learning, and Granite Bay students have experienced this hardship in a variety of ways. Many people have reported feeling unmotivated as a result of their classes’ new format, which could have an impact on how well they perform academically over the course of the term. 

This impact can have a variety of causes, some of which mention how less structured online learning is than in a typical classroom. Junior Ian McCarthy speculated that the absence of a classroom was to blame. “Usually, I’m not at home to learn when I’m there… and it is simply much more difficult to remain focused on one subject without becoming sidetracked. Owing to the numerous distractions that might occur in an average household, McCarthy and many others may find it difficult to concentrate due to the lack of a physical location to designate as a work zone as the classroom once supplied. Tasia Thorstienson, a senior, stated, “I have spoken to practically all of my friends, and we are all in a similar spot. “It’s challenging to maintain accountability and focus.”  

Some people have experienced effects from changes in both place and schedule. According to senior Maia Lee, “some of my classes have scheduled Zoom sessions that happen maybe once a week or fewer, while others only have scheduled meetings that happen sometimes.” For many other students, like Lee, it might be challenging to keep track of assignments due to the inconsistent scheduling from instructor to teacher as well as the various methodologies each teacher uses in their online classroom. Students may become confused since some teachers utilize Google Meet, while others use Zoom, and each frequently has a quite distinct style of organizing their Google Classroom.  

While it can be challenging for students to keep focused, some have also thought that the course curriculum has altered. Thorstienson remarked, “It actually feels like there is more work.” It seems like it will be challenging to stay up. According to McCarthy, “sometimes it feels like there’s a lot more work to do, and other times it’s also more harder to understand the material, which can make it take even longer.” Students frequently report that after switching to online learning, their workload has increased, despite the fact that the decline in motivation has already made keeping up with academic work more challenging. A deluge of time-consuming assignments that some people have thought to be unneeded busywork has come from the desire for all teachers to be providing their students enough work to comprehend a material. But the biggest factor in why kids have found it difficult to keep up with their schoolwork throughout this transition may be how much of a change the quarantine has been from their normal life and how it has affected them mentally. Thorstienson remarked, “We are all in a strange place mentally right now. And that can make learning even more difficult. 

Possible reasons students aren’t engaging in distance learning 

Life situations for students have altered. 

Since the day your school closed, your kids’ lives may have undergone significant change due to a pandemic, a recession, and civil unrest. Financial concerns, illnesses, losses, homelessness, and/or food poverty are issues that many families are dealing with. They could also be exposed in other ways.  

It’s possible that students will no longer have access to the internet, a device to use, or a classroom. It’s possible that some students won’t be able to meet at designated times. Others might be attempting to conceal themselves from the rest of the class or block out a lot that is going on in the background. When you interact with your kids face-to-face every day in the classroom, you might get a feel of who might be struggling at home. You are welcome to check in on matters in confidence. Having those one-on-one discussions with distant learners is more difficult, particularly with disinterested students. 

One way to try is to give the student or their family a call to see how things are doing if their behavior has altered drastically. Additionally, you might wish to explain to parents how social workers can support them with their child’s difficulties. 

Stress and trauma are being dealt with by students. 

Trauma and stress can impair executive functioning, interfere with cognitive processing, and make it harder for pupils to control their emotions. All of that makes it challenging to think, learn, and participate in meaningful ways.  

Many students are dealing with previously unheard-of emotional difficulties due to concerns about the coronavirus epidemic and the widespread outrage over racial injustice. Additionally, they might not have the coping mechanisms or support network to handle them. 

Consider including social-emotional learning (SEL) in your planning for online education. It can support you in managing your emotions without losing interest in your students. You could also wish to educate parents about the different kinds of emotional support that are available for their kids. 

The information is inaccessible. 

Whether students choose to access information online or by picking up physical packets, ensuring their accessibility might be difficult. Students may avoid utilizing the system you’re using if they don’t feel comfortable using it. Especially when using technology, establishing norms and practices with a new system takes time. Given that you are all still getting used to the new system, it is difficult to gauge engagement. 

Sometimes new ways of presenting content prevent children from accessing it. For instance, pupils who have difficulty processing auditory information may find video lessons challenging. Text-heavy instructions and materials may be difficult for students who require additional visual guidance. English language learners can have trouble accessing the subject if they aren’t given the assistance they would normally receive in your actual classroom.  

Many students might be having trouble as well because they don’t feel the material is relevant to their current situation. They could feel as though it has nothing to do with the events taking on in the world around them.  

To ensure that your courses are understandable and pertinent to as many students as possible, one thing to do is to research best practices for online learning and assignments. 

Students require more guidance and organization. 

Many students depend on the structure and assistance of traditional classrooms to keep them on task with their homework. Students who learn remotely must be increasingly self-reliant and accountable for their own learning. Families may be making an effort to assist, but many are also juggling employment while their children are in school at home.  

When students get behind and skip a few assignments, trying to catch up can seem overwhelming. They might simply choose to withdraw. 

Try being upfront about your policies for missed work and grading. But consider measures to reduce pressure related to upcoming due dates and the volume of work still to be done. Show pupils techniques for making the workload more manageable, such as dividing tasks into manageable portions. Read about how one instructor helped “disappearing” students reengage after they had skipped weeks of work by sending them video messages. 

Your demands for engagement remain the same. 

Setting and reiterating clear expectations for behavior and participation is still crucial. However, involvement may be different with distant learning, and not just because of the differences in the classroom environment. Additionally, it may differ from student to student. 

For instance, pupils who learn and think differently may have particular difficulties in live video sessions. It’s possible for students to act in ways that go against your concept of involvement if they struggle with focus and distractibility, problems controlling sensory input, or increased anxiety about being “on show.” During class meetings, actions like fidgeting, turning off the camera, or wandering around can give the impression that students are not engaged. However, for other pupils, it’s what they must do in order to take part in the learning process.  

It’s crucial to understand that kids participate in a variety of ways. You shouldn’t anticipate that each student’s level of participation would be the same as it was previously. 

Factors that Affect Online Student Motivation 

According to Brett Jones, an associate professor of educational psychology at Virginia Tech, knowing what drives online learners is crucial because motivated students are more likely to participate in activities that advance their learning and success. Jones has created the MUSIC model of student motivation, which identifies five key elements that affect student motivation: eMpowerment, Usefulness, Success, Interest, and Caring. This model was created on the basis of a thorough examination of the literature on student motivation. 

Empowerment – When students believe they have some control over some areas of their education, they feel empowered. This may entail providing students with options. Is there a way to give children some level of control by giving them options? Is there a way to give kids the choice to incorporate something from their own lives or make a choice about a subject inside that specific project that gives them a sense of control? Jones opined. Jones uses the following illustration from an online course on personal health: The teacher assigns either an online test or one or more seminars on campus that are connected to the course’s learning goals. Students can choose their own activities while still adhering to the course’s objectives and structure thanks to this. 

Usefulness – Students need to understand how the course will benefit them both during the course and after. In some circumstances, it will be clear how the abilities that students will develop in a course will directly influence their performance in a selected career field. Other times, the relationship won’t be as obvious. Jones suggests being clear about how the knowledge and abilities students gain in the course may be used outside of the classroom. One approach to accomplish this is to have students speak with experts in their chosen fields about the information and skills that contributed to their success. 

Success – Students need to believe that if they put out a decent effort, they can succeed in the course. By establishing expectations, giving feedback, and facilitating the course so that students can access additional resources if necessary, the instructor can assist students succeed. What tools do you have at your disposal to help them succeed? You can anticipate what issues pupils might encounter by doing some advance planning. The more complex subjects can frequently be explained in extra publications or films, according to Jones. 

Interest – Situational interest and individual interest are the two categories of interest that support student motivation. Situational interest describes a fun or interesting component of a course. For instance, Jones integrates content from Psychology Today that is pertinent to the learning objectives in order to change the tone and offer an alternative viewpoint to that of the textbook. These are merely quick side readings that won’t take up much time but could aid students in understanding how the topic might be used in practice. 


Amanda Morin 

Sean Turner  

Rob Kelly 

Categories: Blog


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