Sustaining Motivation in Online Learning
People tend to be disappointed with themselves for not completing the online courses they sign up for. And that’s an unfortunate outcome of MOOCs. The creators intend them to improve people’s lives, and learners sign up with high hopes. If the takeaway is guilt, that’s a problem.
How do we avoid that outcome in Group MOOC classes at Cloud to Ground Learning?
- Active learning
- Personalized accountability
Active learning, in contrast to lecture-only, generates much better results on two measures: the rate at which students pass a course, and the scores they earn on exams. While this finding is intuitive, we don’t really know what degree of activity is needed, or what kind, or how variable the effect might be for different learners. Still, Coursera incorporates small challenges such as multiple choice questions into its video lectures. These would seem helpful in keeping learners awake, but the low rate of course completion suggests they’re insufficient.
Cloud to Ground Learning supplements Coursera’s computer-based activities with face-to-face questioning and discussion. When you’re connected to people and ideas, you are much more motivated to stick with a course.
Accountability means there’s someone who notices whether you show up for class, whether you complete assignments, whether you seem to be applying yourself. It means you get positive reinforcement when it’s warranted–and when it’s not, you get consequences. At the first Information Session, there was much discussion along these lines. It became clear that different people are motivated by different consequences, and in the context of Cloud to Ground Learning, it makes sense to choose for yourself. Which consequences would you choose?
- a raised eyebrow
- a request for explanation (why are you late?)
- a challenge to solve the problem (whatever is interfering with course work)
- a financial penalty
- exclusion from small group work
- expulsion from the class
I can’t imagine expelling someone who has paid for a class and wants to attend. But some people request harsh consequences to help them stay on track. That’s the point of individualizing accountability.