Currently, I am doing research on retention practices for one of the main functions of my job. The program I work with is an online learning program, and so I have been pulling as many research articles as I can on retention in online learning.
As I was reading through one of the articles on the bus home this evening, I came across a line that stood out. While talking about self-determination in relation to success, one author says that “while distance educators pay lip-service to choice and participation, there seems to be little recognition of the learner’s feelings – especially negative feelings. There seems to be little appreciation in the literature that distance learners may sometimes experience anxiety, hopelessness, boredom, disappointment and anger, and that strategies may be needed to help learners overcome such feelings.” (Ormond, 2008)
This is not just relevant to distance learners, or to undergraduate students, but anyone engaging in a process of formal or informal education. Research and theory, few excepted, do not seem to recognize the human capacity for these feelings. Reading that line felt like a light shined in a dark tunnel, these words evoke purpose from feeling for me. I have known that I want to help and support and encourage, but now I have words in research that are the thing that I believe most. That students can get lost and discouraged, and they need someone who is there, ready and waiting to listen, to encourage.
At the heart of why I wanted to work in education, of why I chose higher education, is the ability to be able to be there for a student and remind them that if they just fight through one more rough day they will be at the next one.
Ormond, S. (2008). Motivating Learners in Open and Distance Learning: Do we need a new theory of learner support? Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 23(3). 159-170.