How to Motivate Online Students

by DrSrinivasan

This article elaborates on the diffferent strategies that instructors can use to motivate their online students. Strategies can vary based on whether the online students are of low to high ability, less than computer literate, or working adults. It suggests how to encourage and inspire the students to keep them motivated throughout the online course.

Post your own introduction (before the first day of class) and ask the students to post theirs under the "Introductions" discussion thread, then ask them to answer the discussion question (DQ). This will let the instructor know more about what drives the students and what their needs, interests, and career goals are.

Motivate students who are new to online learning or might lack some computer skills by reassuring them that it's just a matter of time before they become comfortable with the online applications. You should also encourage them to contact available technical support for help with any questions.

Encourage the poor or average ability students to take advantage of additional practice exercises (with bonus grade points as an additional incentive). Let the student know when they do well. If English is their second language give them ESL (English as a second language) or grammar exercises to help them overcome the language barrier.

Bring up a more shy student's viewpoint from any written assignment and praise them for it. This will help to inspire the student to lose their shyness before the rest of the online class. You might also call on them in the discussion forum and ask the student to agree with or contradict another student's response and give reasons to support the argument to encourage interaction between the class.

Send an email to the student's personal account and discuss the university's policies regarding attendance, absence, grades, accountability, and responsibility for those who may have been absent for 2 or more sessions.

Offer more interesting problems or puzzles to solve such as mind-mapping using inspiration, concept mapping, treasure map hunts, and so on with additional grade points offered as an added incentive to the highly intelligent student.

Motivate the highly exhausted full-time working student by adding humor to the discussion forums in order to brighten their spirits.

Show that you care for the success of the entire class by offering positive reinforcement whenever possible, showing patience, and offering the most help available while the students adapt to the online format and teaching style.


  • See the resource listing below for more information regarding students with various disabilities.