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1.5 Motivation and support

Keeping learners motivated and attentive online can be more challenging than in a face-to-face environment where an educator’s personal enthusiasm can have an immediate influence on learners. Online environments will include some learners who are very self-motivated, some learners who are comfortable with online learning, and some learners who are less certain of how to interact. There can be particular challenges for the learners who are least capable of structuring their studies independently.

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Figure 3 Learning online provides different challenges from learning in a face-to-face environment.

Starting each course with a highly structured set of tasks enables educators to see quickly which learners are not completing the tasks on schedule or in the expected way. These learners can then be followed up individually and offered advice on how they should approach the tasks and their online learning experience.

Maintaining order in an online class can be more straightforward than doing so face to face. In a classroom, individual learners can disrupt the lesson or distract other learners, but the online environment is different. During synchronous events, educators can combine their existing classroom skills with the features of the environment (such as controlling whose microphone is enabled at any given time) to avoid any one learner dominating discussions. In asynchronous discussions, inappropriate or tangential comments can be moderated or, if appropriate, challenged publicly.

Some interactions will take place in channels to which educators do not have access, such as WhatsApp groups or private text chats. Disputes, relationship breakdowns and bullying can happen out of sight of the educator, just as they can outside the physical classroom. If learners are unusually reticent in an online session, or suddenly stop engaging with a discussion thread, it can be worth contacting them individually to find out what has prompted the change in their interaction/behaviour.