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Active Learning

Active learning includes any type of instructional activity that engages students in learning, beyond listening, reading, and memorizing.

The MUSIC model: five factors which contribute to online student motivation

Student Motivation: Barriers

Social Interaction

Social isolation ranks as the single most important barrier to students learning online is a lack of social interaction (Muilenburg and Berge, 2005, p. 35).  Muilenberg and Berge (2005) acknowledge overcoming the lack of social interaction in online courses is a major contributor to the decision to continue with online learning. The likelihood of voluntarily taking a future online course was related strongly to social interaction barriers and problems with learner motivation (Muilenburg and Berge, 2005, p. 37).  

Administrative & Instructor Issues

Administrative issues, coupled with instructor issues, are another barrier to student motivation in online courses.  Researchers examining results from surveys to more than 1,000 respondents and group focus groups determined that barriers to online learning consisted of administrative factors which included (Muilenburg and Berge, 2005, p. 36; Bunn, 2004, p. 258): 

  • Lack of sufficient academic advisors
  • Late, or lack of, notification changes to the program
  • Difficulty contacting academic or administrative staff
  • Lack of support services or access to resources
  • Class size
  • Technical Support

    Technical support, or lack of it, is another barrier for students.  Joanne Bunn (2004) discovered in her research on distance education library and information graduate students that the lack of a single point of contact for technical issues far outweighed the barrier of the actual technical issue itself (p. 257). Several students acknowledged that they desired more overview of what technological skills were needed in their online course than they originally received by the LIS staff (Bunn, 2004, p. 258).  One way to remediate this situation is to provide tutorials for specific activities consistently used during the course term (e.g., using PDF highlighting feature, citation builder) if not a link to the actual institutional technical support right in the course shell.

  • External Pressures & Academic Skills

    Family and work obligations are constant balance act for students.  In some cases, online students fail to realize the decrease in personal leisure time their online studies render (Bunn, 2004, p. 259).  In addition, Lin Muilenburg and Zane Berge (2005) uncovered some online students received a lack of support for their studies from their family, friends, and employer (p. 37).  Though these barriers were not significant, online students reported significant interruptions during studying, insufficient time, and the cost of technology were pressures on their motivation to persist in their coursework (Muilenburg and Berge, 2005, p. 37).

    If external pressures were not enough, many students begin coursework with poor academic and organizational skills which have never been addressed.   Many students have only experienced learning in passive environments and have no experience with active learning or commitment to a group. Many instructors acknowledge most college students are poorly prepared for the quantity of required reading and writing expected in undergraduate, let alone graduate, coursework (Bunn, 2004, p. 259). Many of the poor habits/attitudes impacting traditional students similarly impact their online counterparts.  These habits or attitudes consist of (Muilenburg and Berge, 2005, p. 37): 

  • Procrastination
  • Lack of language skills 
  • Lack of communication skills 
  • Lack of typing skills 
  • Lack of responsibility for learning