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You have signed up for a new class and you are excited and ready to get started. For some students, this enthusiasm carries through the entire class term and for others, the enthusiasm seems to wane as each week goes on. What is the difference and how do students maintain their motivation throughout a class? Before your class begins, think about why you enrolled in the class and write down your initial motivation for taking the class. Then think about why you are enrolled in your program; perhaps it’s for a work promotion, or for personal satisfaction, or any other of many individual reasons. Write these down and refer to them often to keep in mind your motivation for furthering your education. Here are five strategies for sustaining your initial motivation for taking academic classes.

Goals: Remember your goals – write them down and review periodically. Keep both short term and long term goals. Short terms can be daily or weekly goals related to the course. Long term goals can be related to completing a single course and your degree program. Life happens and sometimes goals need to be adjusted to reflect your time commitments for work, family, and school. Consider this a challenge and not a roadblock. Schedules are made to be adjusted when necessary.

Organization: Create a schedule for daily and weekly tasks. If you are juggling work, family, and school, schedule in fun activities right along with work and school tasks. Taking breaks to do something fun and relaxing provides a sense of well-being and renews your enthusiasm for learning.

Challenges: Recognize and address any challenges. Not addressing challenges quickly can lead to a snowball effect. Suppose one assignment is late and then the next week you are doing a late assignment plus the current assignments. Then the third week you are still catching up. When challenges build up like this, a sense of resignation can creep in when grades fall or you get behind in a class. Asking for help as soon as you recognize a problem can often help students avoid a backlog. Sometimes getting behind in your work can become a habit and if you are always rushing to get work done, then perhaps it may be time to adjust goals and plans to a more realistic and “doable” level. Successfully meeting challenges and achieving goals builds confidence and helps maintain motivation.

Support System: Family, colleagues, and fellow students can provide support. Sometimes students need to talk about challenges and successes with supportive people. Talking over goals and brainstorming potential problems provides a feeling of being in control of the tasks and workload. Often, when students are rushing all the time to get school work done or perhaps are having difficulty balancing work, family, and school schedules, an objective and supportive friend can provide new ideas for meeting those challenges. Students also gain self-confidence when they are able to help others who also may be having challenges.

Communication: Make an effort to communicate with classmates and instructor. Online learning does not mean going it alone. There are fellow students in your class. There are subject-oriented public discussion boards and social media groups. Extend your online presence to interest-specific social interactions. When you talk about topics with people who share your interest, enthusiasm for learning increases.

So finally you are in the last week of class. How did you do with sustaining your enthusiasm for participating in discussions, completing assignments, and meeting your goals? Many students in the online classes that I teach continue to correspond with each other by email after the class is over. And why not? They share an interest in a specific topic or subject area and have supported each other throughout the course. Keeping up with fellow students after a course ends is a great way to continue developing a support network that will help build momentum to stay motivated throughout your academic career.