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Students’ transition to online learning: Changes in students’ motivation and commitment

Many countries across the world have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a result, schools and universities have been forced to change their educational system.  Those working in the educational field have faced significant challenges transitioning of mode from face-to-face teaching and learning to online learning, and Thailand is no exception.  The pandemic has led to a surge in online learning.  Students and teachers have had to adjust from onsite to online interaction.  This shift has happened around the world.  However, what we have learned from the change is that teaching online is not a trend, but an urgent need.  Millions of teachers and students were not prepared for the change.  No proper training or planning had been organized in order to establish an effective online teaching platform.  Undoubtedly, there have been many limitations and difficulties, especially in the context of Thailand’s educational system.

            Learners, parents, and teachers have all shared their problems with online learning.  Teachers have faced a big challenge in finding a way to conduct an effective online classroom.  In the beginning, many of them had great concerns about how to create great visual aids so that they could deliver lessons effectively.  Teachers who had no experience with using online platforms had to put the effort into learning how to use online applications to deliver their lessons.  Aside from issues with computer literacy, technical problems, and class management, teachers have also faced a problem of lack of motivation and commitment from the learners themselves.  It is not a technical problem that can be fixed easily.  To conduct an effective online classroom, teachers also need to understand that students’ motivation and commitment are key factors that enhance their learning.  To develop students’ learning progress, creating motivation is vital.  Establishing goals help students keep their commitment.  However, it is not easy in an online teaching and learning environment.      

            In transitioning from face-to-face to online learning, students need academic support.  Not all students are suited to online learning, and not all subjects are best conducted online.  While teachers are trying to develop their lessons with visual aids and great power points, they face another issue.  Students do not seem to be actively participating in the class.  While motivation and commitment decrease, academic dishonesty arises.  During online teaching, it becomes difficult to know if students are really learning while teachers are teaching online. It is very normal to find out that a number of students join a classroom without any real engagement.  When students are asked to discuss or answer a question, it is hard to know whether their answer comes from their own opinion, their friends, or internet sources.  Students’ learning progress does not seem to be effectively enhanced.

            Many students have lost their motivation and feel that learning is a waste of time.  Staying at home without class participation, and no teachers and classmates to help them focus, students easily lose their motivation.   When students feel that they are alone, a feeling of physically isolated from other classmates arises. They feel demotivated and less committed to focusing on the class.   Some might say that students will gradually learn to study without friends, however, it is not easy for all learners.  Mature students who can learn independently seem likely to find success with their online learning; but many of them prefer face-to-face learning environments.  Not all students are ready to switch to online learning.  With a sudden change in their mode of study, they have become discouraged and tired.  Some students often feel pressured to learn and perform individually.  They need support from their teacher to adjust t to such a community where dialogue is absent while participation is quite low.  

            It is a teacher’s job to establish an effective teaching methodology that keeps students engaged and motivated.  A teaching method that can help create online engagement is needed. Student motivation and engagement is a huge challenge.  To find effective strategies that help establish this, it is essential to investigate real factors that contribute to the lack of motivation and commitment among students.  Besides becoming familiar with digital technology, teachers must think about effective ways to interact with their students and find out what is the best way to motivate, develop, and engage their students. 

            The pandemic does not seem to be letting up any time soon.  That means online teaching and learning will probably be with us for a while. Although it is not favorable, it is unavoidable.  It is what allows us to keep our teaching and learning moving forward.  Hence, there is a need for improving online education and blended teaching and learning.  Teachers need to consider methods that can support, increase classroom interaction, and promote students’ ability to work more independently without feeling isolated. Teachers not only need to prepare themselves but explore students’ difficulties and help them adapt to and promote online learning success.


Assistant Prof. Dr. Wannaprapha Suksawas
School of Educational Studies 6th Floor, Academic 3 Building Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University 9/9 Moo 9, Chaeng Wattana Road, Bang Phoot t, Pak Kret, Nonthaburi 11120