Staying Motivated When Schools Online – The American Prospect

Posted: May 2, 2020 at 11:45 pm


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The coronavirus pandemic has rapidly transformed education. Now that the reality of being away from peers for sustained periods of time is setting in, the isolation that comes with social distancing is dramatically reducing students motivation. Professors, meanwhile, face a different set of challenges, chiefly figuring out ways to keep students motivated. The reality is that students did not sign up for online learning and no matter how hard a professor tries, they will not be able to motivate all students.

Fear that students will completely disengage and/or drop out of college altogether is strong. Educators do know, however, that they need to be resilient and to continue engaging students no matter how effective their efforts are.

For students, maintaining a schedule and a workspace are crucial, but the unknown horizon of when universities will reopen makes all of this more difficult. Students who are used to working in various environments (the library, their department, cafs around town) are now spending full days in their parents homes. Adjusting to getting work done in my bedroom has been difficult, says Solenne Smith, a junior in American Universitys College of Arts and Sciences, now working from Branford, Connecticut, who usually finishes assignments from coffee shops on campus. In these busy spaces where students congregate on their laptops, there is a camaraderie that many are now trying to re-create in virtual study groups.

Faculty realize that to keep pupils focused, they must take a more active role. This requires more frequent contacts with students, multiple e-mailing, and, for the first time, I have allowed students to call me at home, says Steven Taylor, an associate professor in the Department of Government at American Universitys School of Public Affairs. He urges students to refrain from taking study breaks, like binge-watching videos and shows, as these tend to add further distractions. I do not attach much importance to taking breaks from working. Breaks become habitual and can lead to a lack of focus, Taylor says.

Educators appreciate these new challenges, which is especially assuring to students struggling to meet deadlines. Nobody expects us to be on top of our game right now, says one sophomore at George Washington University. To that end, many universities are providing the option to take classes pass/fail. American, like many other universities such as George Washington and Johns Hopkins, has loosened the rules around pass/fail, which takes pressure off students. But it might also make it harder to stay motivated. It makes me not want to do anything because if I get a C or an A, I still pass, so why put in extra work, says Emily Lynch, a junior at American Universitys School of Communication.

Overall, the onset of the pandemic has made some college students more appreciative of the time they have spent on campus. Op-eds published in The Eagle, American Universitys student newspaper, have expressed gratitude for students time on campus. The sophomore at GWU agrees: I dont know that motivation will increase but rather we will be grateful for the things we had before the pandemic.

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Indeed, the prospect of returning to campus is a motivating factor in and of itself. It will make me appreciate the college experience and remind me to make the most out of the semesters I have left, says Advika Rajapakse, a junior at Johns Hopkins University.

George Washington Universitys Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides virtual walk-ins for students in need of mental-health support. They continue to hold regular business hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Virtual walk-ins are like regular meetings with a therapist except they are done through programs like Skype. JHU also provides online mental-health support for students. JHU goes a step further than GW in that they also provide phone numbers to call for counseling services. While neither university has an infinite capacity for how many student cases they can handle, each approach is innovative and best addresses the needs of as many students as possible.

American Universitys webpage reads, It is not uncommon to feel sad, isolated, stressed, or anxious during this time. While this has been a time of significant change including, but not limited to, disruption to academic and social routines, we remain committed to supporting our students, staff, and faculty through our virtual services and resources. Additionally, we recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted certain communities, with an increase in xenophobia, racial aggression, economic deprivation, stigma, and barriers to appropriate resources. American Universitys commitment to supporting students was made clear in the fact that they list and recognize the potential problems.

GW also expressed concerns regarding xenophobia and racial aggression in its campus response: We know that the COVID-19 originated from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and as a result, members of the GW community from China may be experiencing increased stress at this time. Students, faculty, and staff who are from China or of Chinese descent or others from a diverse background are valued members of our community.

In a letter to students and faculty, JHU President Ronald J. Daniels wrote, I have been deeply moved by the resiliency, determination, and almost fathomless reserves of grace with which Johns Hopkinseach of youis showing up, forging ahead, and getting through this historic moment as one community.

Daniels has taken the most optimistic approach to motivating students by singing the praises of the JHU community. GWs and Americans statements are objective, fact-based, and offering of support.

What has kept me motivated through the coronavirus pandemic is keeping a structured routine. I build into that schedule things beyond the virtual classroom that keep me energized: listening to the music of Lon, a Swedish indie-pop/soul singer; regular exercise; moving around and relocating from one workspace to another. Even for a workaholic like me, its easy to lose concentration. At the end of the day, the most distracting thing is the uncertainty about the fall semester. We are nearing the end of this period, which we coped with because it was temporary, but the prospect of a more permanent transformation of college education is frightening. The challenge going forward is staying motivated when you dont know what college life will be like.

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Staying Motivated When Schools Online - The American Prospect

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May 2nd, 2020 at 11:45 pm

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