It doesn’t matter where someone teachers, engaging students is perhaps the hardest part of this. This is particularly true when the study materials are delivered online or through digital mediums, because this means there is no interaction between the student, the professor, and the other classmates. It is for this reasons that Thomas Rollins Teaching, who developed The Great Courses and The Great Courses Plus, has such a stringent application process for the professors who deliver their courses.

One of the key things Thomas Rollins Teaching looks at is engagement, and how a professor would be able to deliver material in a way that keeps the student’s attention. Motivating students is down to their personal persistence, patience, self-esteem, self-confidence, desire, perception, and interest. Those have been divided into intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

The Two Educational Motivators

Intrinsic motivation comes from a student’s desire to become better at something, fulfilling their own dreams. Extrinsic motivator, meanwhile, happens when a student has to have a certain outcome, and that is what they are studying for. For instance, they may require a certificate in a certain subject in order to obtain a promotion, not because they want it for their own knowledge. The Great Courses focuses mainly on intrinsic motivation, as their courses are designed to fit around a student’s love for lifelong learning. However, doing so digitally continues to be difficult, because of the lack of interaction. Luckily, there are a number of proven strategies that work and that must be incorporated in this form of learning. This is something that Thomas Rollins Teaching specifically looks for during their interview process.

Key Strategies for Engagement

  1. Students’ successes should be rewarded. Adding elements of praise is vital to keeping people motivated, because, on a psychological level, people want to be praised.
  2. Students should be able to monitor how well they are doing themselves. They should be able to look back over what they have learned to see how far they have come, and should regularly be stimulated to think back on the process as a whole.
  3. The environment must be as accessible and open as possible. This is where the real difficulty lies, because a digital course cannot be interrupted by putting your hand up and waiting for the professor to spot you. This is why it is very important to have contact details included with a digital course through which students can ask questions.
  4. Clear goals should be set, so students know exactly what they are working towards.
  5. Students should be included in the creation of the curriculum. This is something that The Great Courses are particularly good at, as they regularly poll and survey their students to identify new areas of learning.

These are the five keys to student engagement when materials are delivered in a format that means no direct face to face contact is possible. For Thomas Rollins Teaching, it is vital that professors demonstrate that they have the ability to do so, before they are chosen to deliver a course.