Motivations are the starting point when it comes to online education. If a student is not motivated to learn something on her own, then she will not finish that online tutorial, and so on. When we began this class, I was driven towards this problem of student motivation, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I see it being a very personalized problem. My own motivation grew from self-exploration and curiosity, which seems to be a far bigger concept than the scope of this class.
So, lately I’ve been thinking about what sorts of motivations are necessary on the short-term for online education to succeed. Yes, we need motivated students, but they are there, and are receiving a lot of attention. But what about the teachers? What about the content producers, organizers, and explainers? What motivates them to teach students from around the world, students that they may never see or hear from ever.
All the sites I have encountered thus far have taken for granted these content-producers. It’s been assumed that there’s these people, who hang out in classrooms and write curricula, lecture, and will forever give us amazing lectures and knowledge. This, however, is certainly changing, and the educator is no longer confined to a room, a school, or to even being formally educated themselves.
Here’s a brief list of motivations I came up with for being a teacher in the traditional sense. Keep in mind these are general, and also I am not a full-fledged teacher and could be leaving out something very important:
- summers off
- communal (the good of spreading knowledge)
- reputation of being a good instructor
- personal knowledge growth through teaching
- employers/students who pay
Now, when we translate that list into the online era, “summers off” disappears. Clients who pay probably drops down some, at least for the online instructor who is just starting out, because people seem to increasingly want their content for free. Personal knowledge growth is ever present, because the best way to learn something is to teach it yourself. The communal aspect might increase, because of the potential number of students one could reach. And finally, we have the reputation of being a good teacher, something that teaching online could increase a million fold.
Let’s jump ahead ten or twenty years from now. The best teachers are no longer at the universities, but are online. They have their content up, their websites, and their follows/students. What motivates them to teach online? What does it mean to teach online? When I imagine this, I immediately see the economy of reputation the internet has built. If someone online is able to attract viewers, and hold on to them via their website, twitter, Facebook, etc, than they are an online success. These could lead to advertising revenues and other outside opportunities being offered.
The way I see it, organizations that don’t factor in reputation building for it’s instructors are unlikely to succeed, especially if they take these teachers and content for granted. I have seen only a couple sites who supports “unknown” teachers to start a free curriculum, and allow their presence to grow, so that they can eventually run a pay-to-learn course on their site when demand increases. However, services like these seem tainted by the celebrity status of some of their instructors. Like Sam Slover discussed in class with his site, the celebrity instructor is able to attract a ton of students, and is then able to make a fair amount of money teaching. However, who is to say that that just because they’re famous, then they are a good teacher? We should be motivating the unknown teachers out there, giving them a platform that puts celebrities and non-celebrities on equal footing, so that the better instructor can win out, and gain internet-stardom for being such a good dude.