Motivating Students Online

Motivation is key to students’ engagement in our courses, their persistence in the face of difficulties, and their overall success. Instructors can play an important and powerful role in helping motivate students in their classes by drawing on ideas in the rich research base in the field.

During the shift to remote instruction in 2020 occasioned by COVID-19, the FDC hosted a series of programs to help faculty motivate students during online instruction. Below we share the resources from those sessions. Please note that a UMBC login is required to access these resources.

Research-Based Ideas for Motivating Students Online

  • Cultivate social relatedness and students’ sense of belonging by communicating with students frequently and using active learning approaches
  • Support students’ ability to achieve mastery, e.g., be transparent in your goals and expectations for students, sequence assignments to allow early opportunities for success, and explicitly foster students’ self-efficacy and growth mindset
  • Provide opportunities for student autonomy and choice and encourage students to set goals for their learning

Motivating Students from Minds Online

Did you find that your students struggled to stay motivated during remote instruction? In our faculty discussion, we shared key thoughts on factors that affect student motivation, whether online or face-to-face. These factors include students’ experiencing a sense of connection, competence, and control. Faculty shared insights gleaned from their own experience to connect theory to practice. Faculty read the following book chapter to prepare for the discussion:

  • “Motivating Students” from Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology by Michelle Miller (Available as an ebook through the AOK library).


Motivating Students from Online Teaching at Its Best

Motivating students during remote instruction can be an ongoing challenge. In an FDC book discussion last spring, we discussed the importance of motivation for student success and shared some strategies to keep students engaged in their learning. We then revisited this important issue by discussing a new chapter which applies ideas from research on motivation to common online teaching challenges and suggests practical solutions to help instructors keep students striving. Faculty read the following book chapter to prepare for the discussion:

  • Chapter 5, “Motivating Elements: Course Policies, Communications, Assessments, and More,” in Online Teaching at Its Best by Linda Nilson and Ludwika Goodson, 2017 (Available as an ebook through the AOK library).

Discussion Questions

The discussion was structured around the following guiding questions:

  1. How do you re-capture students’ attention at midterm?
  2. How do you foster students’ self-efficacy now when they may be falling behind or failing?
  3. How do you create a stronger sense of community in the class at midterm?


Additional Resources

As you consider how to motivate students in your courses, please consider the following additional resources:

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