What Passive Students Hate about Online Learning

Educators have constantly been searching for ways to engage students in the traditional classroom. With the push towards e-learning, the focus has switched to finding ways to engage students online. What may surprise some teachers, or perhaps not, is that not all students want to be engaged and active in the classroom. Thanks in part to laziness or poor teaching, some students prefer to be passive in the classroom. This is even true when these students are online.

This post is going to discuss some of the teaching strategies passives students hate when studying online.

Interactive Videos

Interactive videos allow the student to click on things for various reasons, such as answering questions about the video. Passive students hate interactive videos because it forces them to pay attention. The problem is that every student has to answer the question rather than the student the teacher calls on during a Zoom meeting if teaching synchronously.

In other words, interactive videos compel participation for an individual who does not want to participate. There is no excuse for being shy because the student answers a question that the server grades. However, a passive student does not want to be engaged. Instead, they want to watch the video while doing other homework, surfing the web, or simply putting their head down. With the questions and the grading, the student has to be active, which leads to anger. There is no zoning out during interactive videos unless the student wants to keep watching the video over and over to get the points.


Forums are another enemy of the passive student. It follows the same thinking as interactive videos. Forums force everyone to participate and not just the one student a teacher may call on in class or during a Zoom meeting. However, what makes forums even more frustrating for the passive student is that the question has to be graded by a human generally. What this means is that the question can be more open-ended and involve critical thinking.

Passive students despise critical thinking because they cannot copy and paste an answer from the internet or repeat what the teacher said, like in an interactive video. In other words, critical thinking forces them to think, and they never thought they would have to think at school because they have never thought before (this applies even to university students). In addition, thinking takes time, which angers the students because they have other assignments that they need to complete through memorizing. They don’t want to have to form an opinion since there is no way to know if it’s right or wrong immediately.

It is okay to compel a class to think critically face-to-face or even synchronously because the teacher cannot engage every mind simultaneously. Since the teacher cannot check everyone every time, the passive students can hide or just say anything when working in groups. However, asynchronous online learning forces a higher level of participation in which the passive student cannot hide, which can be a source of complaints about the teacher.

Due Dates

Passive online students also hate due dates. This is because they don’t understand how to manage their time. For some reason, these students are convinced that online assignments should be submitted almost whenever as long as the assignment is not “too late.” However, for the teacher, students submitting work whenever means that feedback and grading are done whenever. When this happens, the teacher has to continuously check and add grades to the grade book, and students never really know how they are doing because everyone is doing what they want.

A key component of online teaching is communication and feedback. Students need to see their grades go up and, when necessary, go down as assignments are marked. This motivates students to continue doing the right thing or to reflect on their actions and make changes. When assignments are submitted chaotically, this crucial component of online learning is lost, which is celebrated by the passive student who wants more time to waste time.

Misunderstanding of Time

A major hurdle that I have encountered online is the passive and maybe even the active students’ misunderstanding of time. Since students have to be active online, they develop the impression that online learning takes more time. In reality, the time is the same, but the activity level has increased. This means that the student is mainly responsible for their learning while the teacher has become a facilitator or a coach rather than the sage on the stage. Since the student has to go through the material, it is now “heavier.”

Again passive students do not enjoy being active. They desire to be passive. They want the teacher to share the content while they memorize it for the exam. This teaching style is possible online, but it is hard to be passive in the real world. Active workers are the ones who get and keep employment.


Everybody has their preferred learning and teaching style. Online educators need to be aware of the pitfalls of dealing with passive students. When passive students are held responsible for being active, there will be some frustration and complaints. This means that teachers need to be prepared for this when they try to help students learn in a manner they are not comfortable with.

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