The COVID-19 pandemic has made online and hybrid learning the norm—but today's reality can have a negative impact on student motivation

Choosing the right tools to boost student motivation

The COVID-19 pandemic has made online and hybrid learning the norm—but today's reality can have a negative impact on student motivation

The use of edtech tools has surged in response to the pandemic-related school closures that began last March. With distance and hybrid learning becoming the new norm, our reliance on edtech will only continue to increase. However, in order to truly realize the potential of these tools, we must invest in ones that will allow teachers to support and encourage their students, while decreasing their workload.

When determining what tools help to achieve those goals, teachers and education leaders should look for products that:

Employ bite-sized exercises and lessons: Research into micro-learning has shown that breaking lessons up into small learning units with micro-assessments can better engage students in online and blended learning environments. In a recent study examining mobile-based micro-learning and assessment homework activities on students’ motivation and learning performance, researchers found that students in an experimental group who experienced micro-learning reported significantly higher perceived autonomy and competence, and higher levels of learner satisfaction and achievement. Interactive exercises like definitions, formulas, small paragraphs, and flashcards with micro-assessment can help encourage student participation and motivation.

Apply elements of gamification: Platforms designed with properties of gamification can also help drive student motivation. Educators can incorporate leader boards or point systems within their lesson plans to help students feel externally rewarded. Although studies into gamification’s impacts are still inconclusive, there are some grounds for optimism: a recent meta-analysis of 30 independent interventions drawn from 24 quantitative studies showed gamification can increase student learning and performance. When used appropriately it can foster enthusiasm, fulfill students’ needs for recognition, and even promote goal-setting, leading to higher levels of engagement.

Deliver timely feedback: Timely and bite-sized feedback helps students to feel successful as they learn, which acts as a strong motivator for students. However, teachers often have to balance their workload with delivering frequent and high-quality feedback. Technology offers a unique opportunity to ease these challenges. Edtech tools that automate and standardize assessments and deliver instant feedback to students allow teachers to allocate their time on providing individual instruction, support, and deeper feedback instead of grading.

Are domain-specific: Focus on a particular subject area. Reading and math are often key areas of focus, however, achievement gaps in writing are also a particular challenge for educators. Given the scale of achievement gaps in writing, it is important to look at solutions that address this particular problem. Research shows that motivating students to write more, and to do so in longer bursts of time, can improve writing fluency. Performance feedback, such as commenting on the number of words written compared to previous writing, can help students to write more. Technology tools automating performance feedback offer teachers an opportunity to improve student writing fluency and save valuable teacher time.

Technology can benefit teachers and students alike

COVID-19 has pushed the rapid adoption of technology into the mainstream and it is likely here to stay. As such, we must leverage its potential to help educators create greater opportunities for academic achievement regardless of the learning environment. With a plethora of choices, thoughtful consideration should go into the decision-making around edtech tools. Those that rise to the top should address challenges like student motivation and engagement while also complementing the work of teachers and lessening their workloads, enabling them to spend time where it’s needed – with the students.

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