10 Creative Student Motivation Strategies For Online Learners

Online student motivation levels vary wildly.

Some adult learners are highly focused, and move smoothy through your online course.
Others start strong, but gradually lose momentum.
And some never really engage with the online course, and don’t log in to the LMS at all.

There are many reasons for this.

They range from genuine Life Issues, to lack of time management skills.
In addition, many adult learners have a chequered educational history, and are daunted by the task in front of them.

But in online learning, the motivation to succeed primarily has to come from the student.

Even so, there’s plenty we can do as online educators to help increase levels of motivation in our adult learners.

This involves inspiring our students to achieve – rather than just nagging them about deadlines.
We need to encourage them to WANT to continue, and to excel.

Many of the suggestions below connect with students’ emotions, boosting engagement and helping to increase students’ drive and determination to get where they want to go.

Here are some creative ways to help your online learners amp up their motivation to achieve.

10 Innovative Online Student Motivation Strategies

1.  Tell your own story

Have you been on a transformational education journey yourself?
Did you find that getting your degree changed your life for the better and opened doors you didn’t even know about?

Share some of the details of your personal experience in your teacher bio, and you become an example of what can happen when potential is unleashed.


student motivation tell your story


2.  Highlight alumni successes

Recent graduates of your course can also be sources of inspiration.
You can invite past students to talk to your current students via Zoom.

Or you can point to the profiles of previous students whose stories are featured on your organisation’s website.

The stories of successful alumni can be powerful motivators.
They present concrete evidence of why the course is useful, and how it translates into tangible benefits.
The previous students will talk about job opportunities, newfound confidence, and the range of skills they can now use in their daily lives.

Alumni stories resonate strongly with your current students.
The past students will have shared many of the anxieties and fears your current students are also experiencing.
If they could move past those potential obstacles, then so can your current students.

3.  Use case studies in the course materials

You can continue the theme of sharing success stories by weaving them into the course materials themselves.

Does your online course have room for including case studies?
Can you discuss the experiences of someone who has upskilled or applied a higher level of understanding to a task?

If so, that’s a great opportunity to give some directly relevant examples of how and why this educational experience will be so useful.


student motivation use case studies


4.  Remind your students of their underlying goal

Each one of your students had a reason for enrolling in your online course.
That reason is easy to lose track of once assignment deadlines start rolling in.

Try sending out a course-wide message that encourages your students to revisit and reaffirm the importance of their underlying goal.

Why did they enrol in the course in the first place?
THAT’S the reason they should keep going.

5.  Tap into their imagination

You can increase student motivation levels by getting your online learners to imagine a better future.

In addition to sharing the success stories of others, turn the spotlight back onto them.
In the first or second discussion board or activity of your course, ask students to briefly explain how they hope their lives will change as a result of this course.

What are the best case scenarios?
For example:

  • A job promotion?
  • A salary increase?
  • Industry recognition?
  • New and interesting projects in their current job?
  • An entirely new role? Or even simply…
  • More confidence and increased sense of self-worth.


student motivation use imagination


6.  Profile a leader in their field

Another source of student motivation can be an inspiring leader.
Have your students look around their own industry or discipline and identify a standout leader to profile.

As they read about the leader’s life and achievements, there will inevitably be details of obstacles overcome and the person’s strong determination to succeed.

This inspiring role model can help motivate your students to overcome their own obstacles to make a real impact too.

7.  Explain why a fictional character is inspiring

Here’s another simple exercise you can have your online students complete as part of their motivation upgrade.

Ask them to pick a fictional character they find particularly inspiring.
The character could be from a book, a story they’ve heard, or a movie.

What is it about that character that is so admirable?
And why is that trait so remarkable?

Is it something they could aspire to themselves?
What would they need to do to make that happen?


student motivation with a fictional character


8.  Choose their most inspiring family member or friend

This exercise can work well for students who may respond better to role models closer to home.
By looking around at the people in their inner circle, they can identify the person they admire most.

When they’ve chosen this exceptional person, the next step is to explain what makes them different from everyone else.
Why are they so admirable?
And how could the student move closer to this ideal themselves?

Have them identify a series of steps they would need to take to become as impressive as this role model.

Chances are that one of the steps may involve completing your course and advancing their qualifications.

9.  Share a favorite inspirational quote

Inspirational quotes are not just for self-help blogs.
Some of them are surprisingly thought-provoking.

Have your students research and identify a quote that inspires them, and then share it on the discussion board.
Why does it ‘speak’ to them?

And how could they use it as fuel to focus on their academic goals?


student motivation inspirational quote


10.  Who’s their favorite superhero?

Most people have a superhero they admire – even if it’s secretly.
It won’t just be the ComiCon regulars who can engage with this idea.

Have your students explain why a particular superhero appeals to them:

  • Is it because of their power to make a difference?
  • Is it because of their superhuman abilities?
  • Or the respect and recognition which results?
  • And which superpower would your students love to have?
  • Why? How would it help their lives?

There’s real scope to have a little fun here – while simultaneously connecting students to another positive source of motivation to think big, and go after their dreams.

These online student motivation strategies are simple but creative.

By keeping your adult learners focused on positive and uplifting possibilities, you keep motivation levels high.
This creates students who are more energised and engaged with the course.

Students who have a clear sense of purpose and strong reasons for achieving their academic goals are more likely to succeed.

So while the motivation to achieve must still come from the students themselves, you can certainly provide some inspiration and guidance along the way.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are okay with that. Click to close.