Motivation in an Online Learning Environment

IndifferenceCreative Commons License Photo Credit: Marc Soller via Compfight


The following were some questions asked of me as I evaluated the TEC-VARIETY Model in the “Instructional Ideas & Tech Tools for Online Success” CourseSites MOOC which I am participating in. I like how this activity enabled me to think deeper about the topic of learner motivation in online environments which is near and dear to my heart. Overall, I find that this is an outstanding model with plenty of supporting empirical research that supports much of it, but it also makes me wonder if it could still be improved upon further. I don’t get the sense that the original developers of this model would want anything but this to happen.

TEC-VARIETY Model

  1. Tone/Climate: Psych Safety, Comfort, Belonging
  2. Encouragement: Feedback, Responsive, Supports
  3. Curiosity: Fun, Fantasy, Control
  4. Variety: Novelty, Intrigue, Unknowns
  5. Autonomy: Choice, Flexibility, Opportunities
  6. Relevance: Meaningful, Authentic, Interesting
  7. Interactive: Collaborative, Team-Based, Community
  8. Engagement: Effort, Involvement, Excitement
  9. Tension: Challenge, Dissonance, Controversy
  10. Yields: Goal Driven, Products, Success, Ownership

What is missing or might be changed in Bonk’s TEC-VARIETY model?

One thing I think might be missing would be a more nuanced explanation of the problem that it is attempting to intervene for. The TEC-Variety model seems to lean heavily on the problem being sensitivity to the tool usage of a given medium, issues regarding training on pedagogical issues and the nature of asynchronous environments. It might be important to stress that there are other systemic problems that are crucial aspects to the problem of learner motivation that some interventions will simply not be able to address.

Another missing link are ones that were self-identified to be incomplete which were the actual solutions. Some solutions were specific examples of interventions to use, but there was little support for the effects these particular suggestions have had on past usages.

Other suggestions were vague and general in nature which could take one down multiple other specific solution options raising other questions as they went. Some general words in the model that could be considered for inclusion would be belongingness, peer-assessment, exploration, inquiry, reflection, experience, simulation, time-on-task, and the creation of one’s own meaningful learning models.

At the same time, many of these generalities could be connected and possibly consolidated into a more simple and general model in order to be a more solid framework upon to build from.

What do you like best about Bonk’s TEC-VARIETY model for motivation and retention online?

I like the emphasis on learner engagement because this is an affective domain that can be measured and will yield learning results.

Do you have any online motivational success story examples or cases that you wish to share?

Generally, courses that helped me navigate my own goal trajectories and involved meaningful levels of engagement toward the refinement and actualization of these goals with creative achievement modeling have been the most meaningful to me. I had one online course that built these models of my demonstrations into an end of the course project that brought things all together regarding what I had done each week to demonstrate my creative competency of the intended learning outcomes while being able to reflect on how these related to my context and career goals.

How do you deal with motivation and retention issues online?

The best way to deal with motivation and retention is to have a deep understanding of people in general, the diversity of what makes them tick, the uniqueness of their contexts, characteristics, their challenges, fears, hopes, stories and inspirational narratives that guide them.

What motivational problems have you experienced with online learners in fully online or blended environments?

Well, some could be motivational problems I have experienced elsewhere and others might actually be perpetuated by the medium itself. For instance, on one hand you have the ever-existing business of people’s lives, laziness, lack of resources and energy, distractions, obligations and all other influential contextualizations (aka excuses). On the other hand, the online environment itself can lend toward even less accountability if the learner and instructor are technologically fearful, incompetent, poorly-resourced, inadequately oriented and in need of a less isolating measures.

Have you experienced any motivational problems personally?

Oh no, never.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBNe8CUePTQ]

Reflections on “I Blame Brangelina: the Idea of Celebrity and Human Trafficking” – Brent Cline (Focus 2012)

We don’t want the skills of the celebrity, we want the benefits. We worship celebrity, not excellence. Celebrity gives the illusion of deep connection. We equate reality through the sense of normalcy we develop from multimedia imagry. What is happening to us when we do this?

Celebrity association with massive scale human rights issues pulls us away from engaging and redeeming issues of human justice toward an idea of normalcy portrayed by the actor.

We consume celebrity (dehumanizing).

We associate less with human rights issues (dehumanizing).

These things cause narcissistic behavior.

“When we do something selfish with the veneer of selflessness.”

“Awareness” is not the same as action.

It is not an argument that celebrity should not be doing this, but that we would do well to be aware of what is truly going on when they do.

Is greed that drives human trafficking the same motivation for those who stand against it?

If you engage with all issues around the globe, you will simply burn out and become cynical really quickly.

“Right living in your own community and respecting the other in your own community is not just a drop in the bucket, it is the premise of all other social change.”

Awareness can result in paralysis. The goal should be to identify and respect the other as in the image of God.

No vengeance is allowed in our religion.

-Professor/Sage Brent Cline

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dh00GCRZ3Y]

“Transforming Higher Education with Emerging Technologies” | EDUCAUSE 2012

Chris Dede from Harvard gave an outstanding talk called “Transforming Higher Education with Emerging Technologies” at the recent Educause Learning Initiative in Austin Texas on the morning of February 14th. In vuDAT (where I work), we had the privilege of hosting an online streaming of this talk and host of others for those interested in attending at Michigan State University.

This talk envisioned the transformation of teaching and learning for 21st-century skills and citizenship. The focus highlighted an array of interactive Web 2.0 technologies designed to aid in collaboration, social interaction, and creation. Both formative and summative assessments strategies were described. These strategies were proposed to be able to leverage the holistic data derived from an immersive simulation interfaces such as augmented reality with mobile devices as well as virtual worlds.

One of Dede’s main points was that education has historically been purposefully removed from the chaotic world in order to reflect analytically. He argues that now with these emerging technologies there are opportunities to strengthen links between life inside and outside the classroom.

Video of this session can be viewed here.

What are your reactions to his vision?

Why use web conferencing with my students?

Adding a Synchronous Component to Online Courses | Faculty Focus-Annotations:

What does web conferencing bring to the classroom?

  • Interactive web conferencing increases accessibility.
  • Interactive web conferencing increases student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction.
  • Interaction is also increased because there is a set time where the class comes together synchronously, which helps eliminate feelings of isolation or lack of interpersonal connections with classmates and the instructor that may occur in a fully asynchronous online course.
  • Interactive web conferencing promotes active learning.
  • Interactive web conferencing adds variety
  • Make sure the learning goals, and not the technology, drive the instruction.
  • Establish a protocol for how students should ask to speak or alert the instructor they are finished commenting so that passing the microphone is easier in larger groups.
  • Change initial settings so that everyone can chat with all attendees and students have ability to do everything (like annotate).
  • Add the technical support number to every invitation to a meeting.

What is some practical advice for web conferencing with a class?

  • Since we often have multiple peripheral devices connected to our computers remind your students to select the microphone and speaker source they intend to use.Remind participants to keep background noise and paper shuffling to a minimum and to mute their microphone when they do not need to speak.
  • Keep e-mail running in the background and have your phone handy in case students try and contact you when having technical difficulties.
  • Always check that students can hear you (and others) well and ask them to alert you if they are having trouble hearing.