Staying Motivated in Online AP Courses

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) allows Iowa students to take APTM classes online.  IOAPA is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to support APTM classes.  Educators can learn more at

There is no getting around it—online APTM courses can be difficult to complete.  This can be especially true for students whose drive dwindles during the semester.  With that in mind, how can IOAPA students boost their motivation?

Create a realistic schedule

Given that IOAPA students must structure study time more so than students who take classroom-based courses, it is crucial that they create realistic work schedules.  A mistake commonly made by teenagers and adults alike is to assume tasks take a shorter time to complete than they actually do.  Students should thus plan sufficient time for each course assignment.  Furthermore, they must recognize when to say no to activities that will not fit into their schedules.  Students who know their limits and create balanced work schedules are less likely to feel burnout and low motivation.

Work efficiently and take breaks

Learning to work efficiently allows students to set aside time for when they focus on assignments and in turn, time when they step away from work.  In other words, students should reserve a specified amount of time in which time they will focus all energy on the task at hand.  Some researchers suggest working in 90-minute intervals.  Once the work period is over, they take a break.  Incorporating fun and relaxing activities into each day allows for renewal.

Check that perfectionism

Some high-achieving students expect perfection and may be less than enthused to take courses in which they will not receive an A.  This expectation is unrealistic—especially for demanding activities like APTM courses—and may prevent students from engaging in rewarding yet challenging experiences.  At the same time, high perfectionism can be unhealthy in that being overly self-critical decreases well-being and increases the risk for depression.  That is not to say that striving for excellence is bad; in truth, this same desire is linked to positive outcomes like hope and school achievement.  Some students (and adults!) may simply benefit from acknowledging that perfection is rarely necessary for a job well done.

Review goals

Regularly reviewing personal goals reminds students why they chose to take online APTM courses.  Students who keep their long-term goals in mind remember that they are not just studying for exams but rather are preparing themselves for college.  Recalling goals may also allow students to reconnect with passion for course topics or the desire to prove to themselves that they can meet the challenge.

Selected Resources

Stoeber, J., & Rambow, A. (2007). Perfectionism in adolescent school students: Relations with motivation, achievement, and well-being. Personality and Individual Differences42(7), 1379-1389.

Williams, K. C., & Williams, C. C. (2011). Five key ingredients for improving student motivation. Research in Higher Education Journal12, 1-23.

2 responses to “Staying Motivated in Online AP Courses

  1. I’m currently taking 3 AP courses through distance-learning. Even with a strong interest in being successful, it’s challenging to stay motivated and I’ve definitely experienced my perfectionism being a cause of burnout… this article really helped me a lot. I will keep my long-term goals in mind, and work with a well-balanced schedule. Thanks! :)

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