Open UToronto

Motivation and Retention in Large Online Classes

The topic of motivation and retention within online learning environments has been the subject of many research projects, but rarely in the context of very large scale courses with fully remote students. This resource collection aims to support instructors through a focus on the unique needs of these learners and potential affordances of large online undergraduate courses. In addition to a literature review and example strategies, two supplementary guides on the topics of using course analytics and online learning readiness are provided.

online student

Literature Review:

Motivation and Retention in Large Online Courses – Literature Review

Large Course Design – Example Strategies:

Visit the full collection motivation and retention examples page.

Supplementary Resources:

Pocket Analytics – Reading Course Reports

This guide provides information on how to read reports and understand what data is provided with simple learning management system (LMS)-based analytics to predict students at risk. These examples draw from Blackboard LMS.

Student Readiness Self Check

A site that offers students an opportunity to self-assess their own motivations and readiness for online learning is available for any instructor to use.


Funding for this project was provided by the  Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development through eCampus Ontario. For more information, please contact online.learning@utoronto.ca

Our thanks to the following University of Toronto online course instructors who contributed to this project:

  • Hakob Barseghyan – Introduction to History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (HPS100)
  • Barb Murck – Introduction to the Environment (ENV100)
  • William Navarre – Introduction to Medical Microbiology (MGY277)
  • Avi Cohen – Introduction to Micro Economics (ECO105)
  • Steve Joordens/Dwayne Pare – Intro to Psychology (PSYA01)

Project team:

  • Hedieh Najafi: Lead Researcher – Online Learning Strategies
  • William Heikoop: Online Learning Coordinator