Understanding what motivates online learners in ESL teaching jobs is important because motivated students are more likely to engage in activities that help them learn and achieve, says Brett Jones, associate professor of educational psychology at Virginia Tech. Based on an extensive review of the literature on student motivation, models of student motivation was developed, which identifies the main factors that contribute to student motivation: empowerment, Usefulness, Success, Interest, and Caring.
Students feel empowered in online English teaching jobs when they feel that they have some control over some aspects of their learning. This can involve giving students choices. Is there some way that we can give students at least a little bit of control by giving them choices? Is there a way to give students some option to bring in something from their own lives or make some decision about a topic within that narrow assignment that lets them feel like they have some control over it?
For example; an online personal English course: An instructor has students either take an online assessment or attend one or two mini-courses related to the course’s learning objectives. This allows students the opportunity to choose their activities while still staying within the framework and goals of the course.
Students need to see that the course is useful and relevant to them within the course and beyond. In some cases, it will be obvious that the skills that students will acquire in a course will directly contribute to their success in a chosen career field. In other cases, that connection will not be as clear. Jones recommends being explicit about how the skills and knowledge students acquire in the course can be applied beyond school. One way to do this is to have students interview teachers and family members about what skills and knowledge contributed to their success.
Students in ESL teaching jobs need to feel that they can succeed in the course if they make a reasonable effort. The instructor can help students succeed by setting expectations, providing feedback, and facilitating the course so that students have access to additional resources if needed. “What resources do you have available for them to succeed? If you thought ahead you can know what problems students typically run into. A lot of times you can create additional documents or videos that explain the more difficult concepts,” Jones says.
There are two types of interest that contribute to student motivation: situational interest and individual interest. Situational interest refers to an aspect of a course that is enjoyable or fun. For example, Jones incorporates articles from Psychology Today related to the learning objectives to vary the tone and provide a different perspective from the textbook. “These are just little side readings that don’t take a lot of time and that might help students see how the [concept] might apply to the real world.”
Situational interest can be enhanced by novelty and emotions. We as humans are attracted to things that are novel. If you have something that can engender emotion so you get people fired up about a topic or issue relates to your learning objectives that can really draw people in. We want to trigger their interest so that they pay attention enough and are interested enough while they are engaged in it.
Situational interest is often short-lived, but it can lead to longer-term individual interest, which refers to how the content relates to the individual. For example, a student taking a mini-course that the student has a strong individual interest. It is possible for a student to have an individual interest in a course but not a situational interest. A student might think, for example, “I want to be a mechanical engineer, but this is boring.”
Remember that interest isn’t universal. We assume that students think a particular subject is fascinating or that everybody’s curious about it, but that’s not the case.
Students need to feel that the instructor (and other students) care that they learn. Jones assumed that although caring is a big motivator for children, it would not play a large role in online higher education courses. He was wrong. In fact, in a study of 609 online learners, caring was the number one predictor of online instructor ratings.
Take care of every aspect of your communication
You’re not watching your students when they take your course. Conversely, students do get to see you and make ideas about you based on how you communicate with them. Not so far, right?
Your posture, movements, voice tone and the words you choose will have a big effect on their learning experience and their motivation for continuing with your course.
Therefore, you should be careful about what you say (your course content) and what you don’t say with words, i.e. your body language. Just an interesting figure to illustrate the point: Nonverbal communication has an impact of 70% in what we communicate.
Throw your shoulders back to improve your posture. This will make you appear more trustworthy and comfortable. Accompany your words with the movements of your hands so they support what you’re saying: your hands let you prioritize different points, display processes and sequences, contrast two concepts and so on.
A very important resource you count with is your voice. Use the volume of your voice to emphasize the most important parts of your speech and make pauses in your narrative to let your students think. Be conscious of the tone of your voice as Prof. Rafael Briceño recommends:
“If you have a high tone, don’t speak too fast and if you have a low tone, pay special attention to your modulation”.
When choosing the words you’re going to use to explain each concept in online English teaching jobs, avoid using technical jargon, unless it is necessary, because it creates a barrier between you and your students. And no matter if you’re using technical language or not, always include practical examples to show your students what is behind each concept.
Run a test
So far we have covered many aspects you should take into account before creating your course. If you are ready to start recording your online course, but you still think you can go further in order to ensure students motivation, there’s something else you can do.
Set everything up and record a lesson, then use this video to test how people react to it. Show this video to people you know and ask them their comments on topics as lighting, volume and everything we talked about in this post.
Additionally; in online English teaching jobs, you can improve the reach of this test by publishing your video on YouTube, Facebook or any social network you like. Listen to the comments of your viewers, as it will give you an idea of how your students will react (besides it works as a marketing resource for your future course).
These factors are very important factors to consider when coaching in an online job or elsewhere, and the recommended solutions can go a very long way in addressing these factors and ensure your students are always motivated to participate in your course.