There are many ways in which emerging technologies can be used to assist students with setting and achieving challenging goals. Online polls can be used to gather student input on course goals relevant to their interests. Text chats and emails can facilitate quick and private communication with students about their individual learning goals.
It’s often possible to make student progress towards learning goals more visible in online environments, which has benefits to students and instructors. For example, you might ask students to set up personal wikis or blogs with pages or categories for each of their learning goals. As the course progresses, have students update their sites with supporting evidence showing how they are achieving goals. Instructors can monitor the wikis or blogs and provide students with feedback through comment tools as appropriate. Consider making these e-portfolios available to other students in the course or open to the Web—authentic audiences that can motivate students to take more ownership of their work (9). Having students host their wikis or blogs on their own websites, as part of their “personal cyberinfrastructure” (10), can also motivate them to take more ownership of their learning.
A critical component in achieving goals is the formative assessment. Students setting goals must have information as to the extent to which goals (e.g., learning) are being achieved. There are a variety of methods in which formative assessments have been adapted to the online environment (11, 12).
For instance, one popular classroom assessment technique is the minute paper, whereby the student writes for one minute in response to a prompt such as, “What do you feel is the most important thing you learned today?” Such prompts can easily be submitted online through polling questions, discussion boards, or blogs. Very short responses, carefully worded, could also be submitted through a microblogging service like Twitter.
Other forms of feedback can be helpful, too. It is now very easy to set up relatively quick online appointments to discuss student goals and achievement toward those goals. Chats can be scheduled for times that might be very difficult in the past, particularly in situations in which either the student or the instructor has small children. Also, when structured properly, online communication typically takes much less time that face to face meetings, while still building strong interpersonal connections.
Finally, a social networking site could be established whereby students post the goals that they would like to be public in an effort to gain peer support. Students may set personal goals related to study time or class attendance and then be held accountable through the social networking site. This kind of public peer accountability can actually be easier to implement in online environments than in face-to-face environments where the time available for sharing individual goals and progress is more limited. Behavior modification and motivation literature (7, 13) conclude that public goals are more likely to be achieved than private goals.