Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias note that students have a hard time getting motivated in online courses. Online education is something I’ve been thinking about a great deal, but for now I’ll just give you two simple answers to this problem:
- The units of education need to be considerably shorter, say two or three weeks in length instead of two or three months. People who accomplish big things do so because they can mentally break the task into manageable units. For example, imagine how easier it would be to lose weight if it only took a couple weeks to lose 5-10 pounds and those pound were guaranteed to stay off for good.
- Have students talk to tutors/mentors/counselors on a regular basis, over the internet or perhaps even in person. When taking piano lessons, I always practiced more diligently in the two or three days after my lesson, often slacking off the rest of the time. What this suggests to me is that, in fact, the greatest value in music lessons is probably not in the parting of any real information so much as just in coaching students through practice. If you find the optimum frequency a particular student can go without coaching, I predict you’ll largely solve their motivation problem.