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Stay Motivated

Perseverance and Drive in Online Learning

 By: Maggie Veneman

Keep goals in mind, and remind yourself of them regularly when you feel you're losing focus. For me, that goal is showing my kids that they can do anything if they work hard!

            - Kelly Wagner, Arts and Science Online Student

rock climbing Keep your eye on the end goal. That’s the best advice we can give our online students. Studying is a marathon, not a sprint, and you will inevitably run into some obstacles. It is important that you feel confident enough in yourself to be able to cope with these obstacles, and that you know which resources to turn to when you need help.

Stress is one of the most prominent issues that causes students to lose motivation. According to David Robotham in his article “Stress and the Higher Education Student”, causes of student stress can include exams, time demands, financial pressures, new responsibilities, and the fear of failure. Students with additional family or work responsibilities will likely experience more stressors. There are two coping methods that may help you deal with stress: change the environment, or change the meaning. Changing the environment could be as simple as dropping a course so that your workload decreases. Changing the meaning of the situation is more difficult. You need to find a way to decrease the importance of the issue that is causing you stress in your mind. One way might be to remind yourself of the big picture; if you miss a forum post, that 5% is not going to make or break your degree, so try not to stress about it.

Robotham goes on to explain that around 1 in 10 students may need professional help to reduce their stress, but many never admit that they need help. Students are often embarrassed or concerned that they will be perceived as weak, so societal pressure keeps them from asking for help or seeking out resources to manage their stress. As online students, you aren’t made aware of as many support services as on campus students are, but these services do exist! Be sure to use them.

Taking courses online requires students to manage and regulate their learning. Students need to find an appropriate time and place to study that fits into their daily lives, and to do this, they need to stay motivated. The social isolation of an online course can elicit anxiety, frustration, and boredom, but it can also make learners more active. When you need to use technology as a tool to aid your learning, you are participating in your own development and thus intrinsic vs extrinsic motivationaccelerating your learning.

To be an effective learner, your motivation needs to be intrinsic rather than external. This means that you need to be curious about what you’re learning, and your desire to learn must be self-motivated. You need to want to learn for you, not for your professors and TAs. External motivators, such as grades, are always present, but they should not be your main focus. Your focus should be on your personal growth as a learner.

If you find yourself losing motivation or overwhelmed by stress, remind yourself of why you are taking online courses. Whether you’re doing it for your career, your family, or out of sheer curiosity, your goals are worthwhile, and you should keep pursuing them.