The learning challenges in your online classroom will be similar to those you encounter in a face-to-face classroom, but there are also differences. For instance, the introduction of technology presents many new opportunities for providing a variety of learning activities, but also brings challenges such as technical support, inequality in access to the Internet, differences in hardware and software, and privacy issues in using Web 2.0 sites.
It is important during the instructional design process to identify strategies for online courses that will provide motivation for learning. Content and activities need to be relevant and authentic, and learners must actively participate. The instructor must provide an atmosphere that evokes a sense of trust, while interacting with the learners in such a way that they feel confident in participating, expressing their views, demonstrating their learning, and reflecting on what they have learned as well as on the learning process. Rather than “sage on the stage” direct instruction by the instructor, learners should be encouraged take risks, demonstrated self direction and motivation through a well designed journey to construct the learning environment for their own benefit and the benefit of others.
Technology also provides an opportunity to design learning opportunities that take into account individual differences and that support diversity by inclusive design. The instructor should help learners recognize their capabilities and match activities to the individual. There have been some interesting articles and accompanying discussions published recently on learning styles and whether or not teachers should adjust their practices to accommodate students with different learning styles.
Your online course will likely contain both synchronous and asynchronous components. Synchronous activities, especially those that require students to prepare in some way and to actively participate, are a good way to motivate students. Having a few critical and relevant synchronous activities in your course can increase motivation and help your students keep on schedule. Planning synchronous activities is time-consuming and can be difficult. If possible you can post a schedule for synchronous activities at the beginning of the course so that students know when the sessions are and can plan accordingly. You will have to articulate your expectations for attending these sessions while keeping in mind that students might reside in a variety of locations (different time zones) and will almost certainly have a variety of family and work commitments.
Student engagement and motivation is also affected by the design of the online learning environment, including the look of the site and navigation aids.
Ally, Mohamed. (2004). Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning. In The Theory and Practice of Online Learning (2nd ed., chap. 1). Retrieved March 15, 2010 from http://cde.athabascau.ca/online_book/ch1.html
Tommaso, L., Manganello, F., Pennacchietti, M., Pistoia, A., Kinshuk, K., & Chen, N.-S. (2009). Online Synchronous Instruction: Challenges and Solutions. Proceedings of the 9th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (July 14-18, 2009, Riga, Latvia), Los Alamitos: IEEE Computer Society Press, 489-491. Retrieved March 4, 2013 from http://www.academia.edu/916997/Online_Synchronous_Instruction_Challenges_and_Solutions
Kuhlmann, T. (2008, March 25th). Motivate your learners with these 5 simple tips. Message posted to http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/motivate-your-learners-with-these-5-simple-tips/