Monday, July 30, 2012

Online Classes and the Motivated Student

From what I’ve seen in just over a year and a half of teaching online courses, it is true that the more motivated the student, the more likely they are to succeed in online classes. And though I might like to think otherwise as an online instructor, it is the student’s motivation, not the teacher’s, that makes for success.

There’s quite a bit of hand-wringing going on out there about online courses and how they leave the less-motivated students behind. There are other factors they point out that also leave other students behind, couching everything in the unrealistic idea that every educational opportunity ought to be open to everyone, no matter what inabilities or disadvantages they possess, such as in this piece from Noliwe M. Rooks in TIME magazine. Her conclusion:

If we really want to democratize education, finding creative ways to realistically open up colleges to different communities will do more to help than will a model that, despite its stated intentions, is more beneficial for students for students who are already wealthy, academically well-prepared an highly motivated. We ought to make sure that everyone has access to the same opportunities or we will further widen the opportunity gaps we mean to close.
So why not make online courses only for the motivated student?

Well, there are many reasons that would cause hand-wringing sessions of their own. First and foremost is this American idea that education ought to be available in all forms to everyone, rather than in a tailored fashion that lets students take advantage of their learned or inborn advantages and move at a brisker pace through their education. Making online classes open only to motivated students – and how do you measure motivation – smacks as undemocratic, something that’s just not allowed in educational circles.

Maybe getting these highly-motivated students out of the classroom – leaving more room for the less motivated in traditional classrooms where they can get the physical, one-on-one instruction they need – is an advantage that’s being overlooked.

Another advantage: I’ve seen highly motivated and talented writers simply go through the motions or kick against the pricks of their online course because – this is true – they already know about writing a thesis, organizing a paper, doing research and the little bitty tricks that their less-motivated and less-talented peers are still working on. They’re bored in physical classrooms and frustrated at the busywork in online courses, and I don’t blame them. These are the divergent thinkers Sir Ken Robinson talks about in this video. Why not, in fact, let these highly motivated and talented students audit courses for credit and get it without having to go through the motions at all?

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