Virtual Classroom Insights Part 4: Causes For Student Demotivation

Understanding what stimulates students in their studies, as well as understanding the things that can create a negative attitude towards learning, can distinguish a good teacher from an average one. Being aware of all of the possible distractions is a must in the virtual classroom. Being able to generate interest in their pupils is one of the key features of teachers; providing interesting and useful knowledge is another. But being able to motivate students is not something that a teacher naturally possesses. It is an ability built with hard work and a lot of effort.

Motivation explained

Motivation by definition is very similar to interest. According to the Cambridge Online Dictionary, motivation can be described as “a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.” It is also a “desire or willingness to do something.” Motivation is the enthusiasm of a person when undertaking a certain activity.

What causes demotivation in the virtual classroom?

What causes demotivation in the virtual classroom?

When discussing the motivation of students to participate in the learning process, there are a lot of things that can go sideways. Some of the reasons for this include the students themselves, the type or method of instruction, a student’s background, the mood in the classroom, and personal preferences. Others come from the surroundings, other people, and the environment. This is why the sources of motivation can be generally divided into two groups – factors that are either internal or external in origin. Both groups are important and can play a crucial role in the willingness of the students to learn.

Internal factors impacting student motivation

  • Daydreaming: People often tend to get carried away by their own thoughts. Even though it seems as if they are present, while daydreaming they are actually absent. Daydreaming often occurs in the virtual classroom as well. It is up to the teacher to grab student attention by making the subject more appealing.
  • Learning difficulties and health issues: Demotivation can be caused by health or personal problems. It sometimes happens that students are unaware of a condition they have or simply neglect it, such as dyslexia, substance abuse, depression, etc. Other than influencing personal motivation, these issues can affect group motivation as well.
  • Disappointment: Typically, learning is thought to be an easy task. When encountering problems many pupils are likely to get demotivated to put further effort into their studies. Moreover, students often doubt whether the effort they invest will improve their performance. This demotivates them to work hard. A course’s reputation of being very challenging can also be demotivating. A lack of interest can also be due to other discouraging experiences in similar courses that the students could not handle. Another challenge is the belief that intelligence is a fixed quantity. This suggests that no matter how much effort is invested, the outcome will remain the same.
  • Value of course content: Recognizing the value of the course influences motivation and the amount of work that is expected to be put in by the students. Demonstrating and laying out the significance of coursework in terms of student goals, interests, and concerns is very important in order to captivate and retain their interest.

Internal factors impacting student motivation

External factors affecting student motivation

  • Bad teaching: This external factor has several aspects. First, the teacher must be aware of the level of student understanding. Second, the length of the teacher’s lecture should not be excessive because it can become hard to follow. People in general, and students in particular, are more likely to listen when they are interested and may block out information that they dislike. A boring message in the virtual classroom will result in less attention.
  • Excessive assessment: It is generally believed that undertaking numerous exams and tests helps students perform better on the final exams. This, however, is not the case. Often, an enormous amount of assessments leads to an overall loss of interest in learning.
  • Syllabus: When forced to cope with difficult syllabuses, students are likely to give up instead of trying harder. It is very important that the studies are challenging, but at a level that is possible to achieve. On the other hand, however, if a syllabus is not challenging enough or is boring, it could discourage the pupils.
  • Unattractive rewards: A lack of recognition may result in severe demotivation and disappointment. Students need to be encouraged for the time and effort that they put in to their studies. Acknowledgement should also correspond to the difficulty of the task. In addition, it is essential for students to be aware of the criteria that distinguish good from bad performances. If present, the rigid application of the same could also be a source of motivation.
  • Distractions: Nowadays there are numerous distractions that can interfere with the motivation and interest levels of pupils. Things like a comfortable seat, good lighting, and the colors of the walls have an impact on the overall interest levels of students. Other considerations include smart phones, digital gaming, social media, etc., which divert the attention of students quite easily.
  • Bullying: Even though it is not often talked about, this is one of the biggest problems students face. Regardless of whether it is face-to-face or online, bullying affects the self-esteem of pupils and is very likely to impact the way they study or approach the learning process.
  • Classroom climate: Emotional, social, physical, intellectual, and organizational factors in the environment also influence the motivation levels of students. If the surroundings are perceived as being encouraging and reassuring, it is likely that the pupil will be motivated to pursue the course of learning. To the contrary, if a pupil feels threatened or unsupported in the virtual classroom, this may cause them to pull back their level of interest. Teachers can play the role of moderators in the virtual classroom and contribute to building a microclimate that nurtures motivation.


  1. Motivation, The Cambridge Online Dictionary, accessed 27.10.2018
  2. Bambaeeroo, Fatemeh and Shokrpour, Nasrin. “The Impact Of The Teachers’ Non-Verbal Communication On Success In Teaching,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (accessed 27.10.2018)
  3. Robomateplus. “8 Reasons Why Students Lack Interest In Studies,”, (accessed 27.10.2018)
  4. Eberly Center. “Students Lack Interest Or Motivation,” Carnegie Mellon University, (accessed 27.10.2018)

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Maya Kolarova is an experienced teacher, advertiser and copywriter. She has a PhD in Journalism from the Department of Media and Public Communication at the University of National and World Economy (UNWE) in Sofia. She has taught English and Italian classes, as well as lectures in UNWE on matters of Mass communication, Business communication, Public Opinion. Her fields of interest include: communication, online media, advertising, and psychology.
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