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Promoting a Positive Mindset For Online Learners

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As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the globe, we have looked to the online world to meet our entertainment, retail, information, and education needs. This shift was not without its difficulties. Those who had not used technology as frequently before had to progress their skills for daily work tasks, administration, financial obligations, and meetings. Likewise, students had to become accustomed to a new learning environment of online education and instruction instead of in their regular physical classroom.

Some teachers may have noticed that student motivation and academic discipline have taken some strain. Some students prefer to turn off their video camera during class time, or otherwise disengage with the digital classroom. What can teachers do to drive motivation in each student and encourage a positive mindset towards online learning?

How a Positive Mindset is Linked to Motivation

A student with a positive mindset and increased motivation has a higher likelihood of reaching academic achievement. Motivation is key to helping students persevere through challenges that may come their way, actively participating in opportunities of collaboration and ultimately reaching desired goals. 

What is the role of a teacher?

In the study, “Teachers Roles and Responsibility in Relation to Covid-19 Pandemic” by Parul Agarwal and Navita Malik, the authors outline the roles and responsibilities of a teacher:  

  1. Create an optimal learning environment for students.
  2. Have a positive attitude towards all students.
  3. Do action research on lesson plans whenever needed.
  4. Motivate the student to develop their ability and aspiration to learn.
  5. Be a role model for the students.

Most of these roles and responsibilities centre around activating and inspiring the mindset of the student. It is vital that teachers envision and create a learning experience that will motivate their students to continue to learn with a positive mindset. Let’s dive deeper into the finer details of creating the optimum online learning experience.

How to Promote a Positive Mindset for Online Learners

Give them a reason to care

It is naturally easier for teachers to ensure all students are engaged, paying attention, and following the course material when teaching in a physical classroom. Body language and facial expressions are good indicators of each student’s engagement in the class. So how do you match this online?

Start by clearly setting out the purpose and relevance of the learning material to each student’s daily life, which gives them a reason to care. This can be achieved by basing the learning around a problem that the student can relate to.

Helping the student directly locate the purpose and relevance of the course material within their own context promotes a positive mindset as it encourages the idea that what they are learning is worthwhile.

A second approach would be to incorporate game elements into the online classroom with incentives like rewards and badges, and mini-module games that are age-appropriate to the student. This can increase their interest in the subject matter through fun and interactive activities while also giving students a sense of agency as they participate in the learning environment. 

Game-based learning can also be appealing to adult students as elements such as point systems and leaderboards can speak to their extrinsic motivation, while story-driven narratives surrounding the course material can encourage an emotional immersion into the learning journey. Such activities are mutually beneficial to the teacher and the student as they help to gauge the current progress and understanding of the course material by the student.

Creative online teaching methods that promote hands-on interaction with subject matter drives engagement and knowledge retention of each lesson.

Use class discussions to promote autonomy

Daniel Pink said it best, “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” A student with a sense of autonomy is more likely to be proactive in seeking a greater understanding of a challenging subject. This is greatly beneficial and provides students with a sense of control and self-competence in their own studies. 

Teachers’ expertise are far more useful in addressing the learning breakdowns that occur. As each student learns at their own pace and in their own way, online classes could provide the space for students to discuss their understanding and thoughts on a particular topic rather than spending the class wading through reams of slides on a dense subject. 

Leaving class time for discussion of course material is also known as the ‘Flipped Classroom model’. Students watch lectures and engage with other course material as ‘homework’ and discuss their learning in class. This puts the student in charge and allows them to study at their own pace (e.g.. they can pause and rewind a lecture to fully grasp what was said). 

At the end of class time, recap on important information learned and ask questions to keep students engaged and to avoid a potential learning breakdown. An engaged and empowered student has a stronger likelihood of a healthy and positive mindset to their studies.

Empowering students provides the drive to pursue their studies and also develops the essential discipline needed to succeed. Studying online requires diligence that is greatly helped by the student fully understanding the work studied as well as an interest in the subject matter.

By providing students with course material before a class discussion, they are able to read through and prepare themselves for class. When dealing with complex topics, it is particularly useful to give students an opportunity to engage with the topic before discussing its relevance in class. Students can then enter the online class with an informed understanding of what will be discussed and hopefully a few questions they would like to ask the teacher. This sense of control provides the student with a positive outlook on what is to come. 

Address negative thinking and academic stress

“If we want to reignite innovation and passion, we have to humanise work,” said Brené Brown. By humanising the course work and making the online classroom a safe space to experiment, teachers address students’ thoughts of failure which often inhibits the learning process. 

The fear of making mistakes is positivity’s worst enemy. Increase engagement in the classroom by proposing thought-provoking perspectives on a subject and asking students for their insights. Start an open discussion during class time by posing questions such as “Have you ever experienced this before?” or “How did you go about solving this problem?”. 

Open discussions help students feel more confident when it comes to sharing because they can’t be “wrong”. A better grasp of the content can be achieved by first discussing what students know about a subject before moving to more content-based questions. By addressing negative thinking and a fear of failure surrounding new coursework, students will feel supported which in turn aids knowledge retention. 

Academic stress can also contribute to negative thinking. Reduce academic stress by ensuring that your students have clear instructions…reach out if they need academic help or any other information about the course. Share these instructions in every lesson. Students often worry about how they will contact the instructor if they need academic help, how they will submit assignments, and so on. Ensure your students have clear instructions on where and how they can reach out and repeat this in every lesson. Students don’t always run into issues, but when they do they can often forget the resources at their disposal. 

Establish a community

The article, “Managing attention and distractibility in online learning” encourages teachers to reinforce student engagement by actively forging an online community with a variety of fun activities and opportunities for interaction. It would do us well to remember that students have also been removed from their sense of community in the physical classroom. 

Luckily, students are growing more accustomed to an online presence and community (even if instructors are not). Intuitive and familiar platforms and interfaces (i.e. an interface that mimics a Twitter or Facebook newsfeed) can be a great place to start the online community. And join in! Students who feel that their teacher is listening to them (or reading their community posts) are more likely to increase their engagement in the online classroom as a whole. 

An online discussion forum can motivate and inspire students to reach out to other students studying the same coursework. It can also function as a news bulletin board where students (and instructors) can share their thoughts and findings on the course material covered. A great way to increase interest in a subject!

And lastly, be your student’s biggest fan. Your attitude and encouragement towards their studies play a larger part than you may realise. Make each student aware of their unique strengths and weaknesses. This can help greatly with their self-esteem and to successfully approach their studies with a positive mindset and a confident attitude. Start creating a positive learning environment with the resources at your disposal to captivate your students’ attention. You can also get in touch with Hubble Studios today as we will guide you through creating the optimum environment for learners.

About Hubble Studios

Hubble Studios works on the bottom line when conceptualising an online course. The skills or ‘course-level learning outcomes’ the student will learn and what is needed in order to obtain these skills is our main concern. We have found that the best online teaching methods start when we look closer at the student. What are their learning needs and how do we support these needs? Age, previous experience (e.g. with the material, whether they have work experience or have only ever been in an academic setting, experience with technology and online learning, etc.), their language abilities, their cultural background, motivation for taking the course, time zones, etc. all play a role in the design of the course and the most appropriate teaching method. It also helps provide your students with a positive learning experience that inspires autonomy and increases motivation to learn. 

We are as passionate as you are about building innovative and future-proof digital education solutions that keep the end-user top-of-mind. Get in touch with Hubble Studios today.

Need to take your classroom online? Download our 6-step guide here.

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