How to Include Fun in the Online Classroom


Kelli Hicks
Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 11:45am

A couple years ago I ran a 5K with my sister. At the same event, my nephew completed a half marathon. At the end of his event, he received a finisher’s medal. However, my sister and I didn’t receive a medal because they didn’t hand them out for any events shorter than the half marathon. I quickly decided that I wanted a medal too. 

As a result of my decision, after my 5K, I trained for the next six months and successfully ran a half marathon and received my finisher’s medal. What was the catch to winning this medal? I HATE running. However, once I decided I wanted that medal I pushed beyond my distaste for running and completed what I set out to do. I have now completed three half marathons, earning three finisher’s medals, and have plans to sign up for more half marathons.

Motivating Students 

Why would I run half marathons if I hate running so much? Because I like earning the medals. I like the outcome and I have decided I enjoy the actual races, despite the fact that they are running events. I hate the months of training that come with them, and if you asked me to go for a jog with you, I’d say no. But earning the medal makes the running part fun for me.

I think it’s safe to assume that many people are like me in this respect—if you are able to make an aspect of an unpleasant task fun, you can motivates people to complete the task. Similarly, an online teacher can incorporate fun into the online classroom to motivate students to succeed even in subject areas that they don’t particularly enjoy.

1) Competition is king.

Creating competition in classrooms is a good way to motivate students to succeed—both online and in traditional brick-and-mortar settings. While you might think that this might be difficult in an online classroom, you can accomplish this just as easily as in a brick-and-mortar setting.

Within an online class, you can have many different types of competitions:

  • Who can earn the most points in a week?
  • Who can bring his grade up by the largest percentage by doing make up work?

You can even pit classes against one another:

  • Which class can turn in the highest number of assignments in a week?
  • Which class can show the greatest improvement?
  • You don’t even need prizes if you don’t want them—bragging rights is often reward enough.

Post a class announcement that includes the first names of the winning students. Or in a competition against different classes, post the winning course name along with their winning statistics.

2) Act silly.

Do silly things as a reward for your students’ good work. If they bring up their grades by a certain percentage, you can record yourself getting pied in the face, dye your hair, etc. I recently had a competition like this where my team not only met the goal, but they greatly exceeded it. 

So, as a reward for their fantastic job, my students got separate videos of me making a snow angel in my bare feet, getting pied by my children, and rock climbing.


3) Reward students for completed work.

Every school has different guidelines on what extra credit is allowed, but most students are able to earn at least a little extra credit or a freebie on an assignment—at your discretion.

A few examples of this:

  • Turn in three assignments in a week for three extra credit points.
  • Improve your grade by three percent in two weeks and I will add a few points to your lowest test score.

As adults, if our job isn’t fun or enjoyable for us, we look for new employment. We can’t forget that students need this same sense of fun in their schoolwork. This incorporation of fun is just as important in the online setting as it is in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting— and it’s just as easy!

About the Author

Kelli Hicks is a teacher with more than twelve years of experience, including four years teaching online English, sociology, and ESL courses for Fuel Education. Additionally, Kelli serves as the State Lead Teacher for Utah, and is a shift lead for the FuelEd Academic Support Team (TAMS). Kelli has taught both online and within traditional brick-and-mortar schools focusing on at-risk and ESL students. She graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor's degree in English education, minoring in sociology education with an ESL endorsement.


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