This paper examines the issue of motivation as it applies to online learning. It argues that whilst institutions are currently focussing much effort on the integration and embedding of virtual learning environments, the student perspective is receiving very little attention. Institutional strategies include adopting training and support for academic staff in developing online learning, support for institutional structures to enable the integration of systems and the sharing of good practice and expertise. However, there is very little evidence that institutions are giving enough consideration to the student perspective and in particular the issues of motivation and engagement. The paper begins by examining the characteristics of good motivation and learning approaches that can be characterised as ‘open’ and ‘closed’ approaches to learning. It then examines Keller's (1983) instructional design model for student motivation and his four components that contribute to motivation: arousing interest, creating relevance, developing an expectancy of success, and providing extrinsic/intrinsic rewards. The paper then provides key findings from the evaluation studies to illustrate specific instances of how the nature of the learning environment affected motivation either beneficially or detrimentally. The paper concludes with a set of suggested strategies for optimising levels of student motivation towards virtual or online learning in order to ensure that the organisational investment in new approaches to learning will be repaid through high levels of student participation and effective learning. These conclude that virtual learning needs to provide opportunities not available elsewhere; that tangible extrinsic motivators need to built in; that learners must have clear expectations in a virtual environment; specific guidance is needed to exploit opportunities and the level of threat must be managed through support and peer group induction. The paper ends by outlining future work to be undertaken in this area to exploit the ideas further.
The New Educational Benefits of ICT in Higher Education
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences