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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Improving Learner Motivation for eLearning

Motivation has been and continues to be a widely studied area across many of life’s domains. Motivation is the energising force that initiates and sustains behaviour and ultimately produces results. Many motivation theories focus on the amount of motivation, with a larger quantity said to result in improved outcomes. However, as educators we shouldn’t focus on generating more motivation from our learners but instead focus on creating conditions that facilitate the internalisation of motivation from within our learners.

Self-determination theory (SDT), an empirical theory of motivation by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, focuses on the degree in which behaviour is self-motivated and self-determined. According to SDT, engaging in activities for their inherent satisfaction and that are enjoyable are said to be intrinsically motivating. Unlike other motivation theories, extrinsic motivation (engaging in activities that lead to a separable outcome) is not a single construct; it exists in four distinct forms according to the extent to which the motivation for the behaviour emanates from one’s self. In other words, extrinsic motivation can be viewed by the degree to which it is controlling of one’s behaviour (external) or allows one’s behaviour to be more autonomous (internal).

SDT Continuum

Ryan and Deci, 2000.

Organismic Integration Theory (OIT), a sub-theory of SDT, places the four types of extrinsic motivation along a continuum of relative autonomy, depending on the level of control or autonomy. As can be seen in the diagram (from left to right), the types of motivation along the continuum relate to increasing levels of internalisation and autonomy and lower levels of control. Progression along the continuum is not necessarily linear and is subject to contextual factors. However, greater internalisation “is critical for effective psychological and academic functioning at all education levels” (Niemiec and Ryan, 2000, p.138).

How can we help learners to internalise their motivation?

SDT proposes that all humans require the satisfaction of three basic psychological needs, namely:

  • Autonomy (a sense of being in control and having freedom),
  • Competence (a sense of being able to do something i.e. being competent), and
  • Relatedness (a sense of being associated or connected to others).

Contexts that satisfy all three basic needs will help support people’s actions, resulting in more sustained motivation over time and positive outcomes. Learners are not always motivated to complete eLearning modules/courses – it might be a requirement of their job or as part of a qualification. But, if we can use strategies to support their competence, autonomy and relatedness needs we can assist learners to internalise their motivation of these types of externally regulated activities.

What do these support strategies look like in practice?

Here are some strategies that you can apply to your eLearning that can help improve learner motivation by satisfying their basic psychological needs:

Autonomy:

  1. Allowing learners to make meaningful choices that have consequences
  2. Providing learners with more than one way to reach their end goal
  3. Allowing learners to customise their environment e.g. choosing a character
  4. Encouraging learners to take risks and be creative during the eLearning module/course

Competence:

  1. Making the rules and goals for learners clear and structured
  2. Allowing multiple opportunities to complete parts of the eLearning module/course to allow learners to build their competence
  3. Requiring learners to frequently make decisions to keep the eLearning module/course moving forward
  4. Measuring learner performance in multiple ways
  5. Increasing the difficulty as the learner progresses through the eLearning module/course
  6. Linking progression (the reward) to learner competence
  7. Providing learners with constant and varied feedback and support
  8. Allowing learners to review or replay earlier parts of the eLearning module/course
  9. Recognise learner achievement e.g. experience points or badges

Relatedness:

  1. Providing space/areas for learner interaction and discussion e.g. forums
  2. Providing opportunities for learner collaboration e.g. a group quest or challenge

Motivation plays an important role during eLearning experiences and our challenge is to create eLearning that our learners want to engage in. As educators, we have an opportunity to assist learners with the internalisation of motivation in the way we design and deliver learning experiences. While it’s not always easy, we need to use strategies that help satisfy the competence, autonomy and relatedness needs of our learners if we want to improve their motivation towards the module or course they are completing.

References:

Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (2008) Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology. 49 (1), 14-23.

Kapp, K. M. (2012) The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. Pfeiffer/ASTD

Niemiec, C. P & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Autonomy, competence and relatedness in the classroom: applying self-determination theory to educational practice. Theory and Research in Education. 7 (2), 133-144.

Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000) Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 25, 54-67.

Also, check out this website for more information on self-determination theory: http://www.selfdeterminationtheory.org/

A similar version of this article originally appeared in Training & Development magazine, October 2013 Vol 40 No 5, published by the Australian Institute of Training and Development and eLearn Magazine, October 2013.

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Showing My Work #2

The Showing My Work series of posts are what I’m using to ‘narrate’ the projects that I’m working on or have developed.

I’ve been designing and developing some eLearning modules for the employees in my organisation. Prior to my arrival, eLearning wasn’t used very much and unfortunately what did exist was mostly eReading.

Looking at our existing courses, they appeared to be mostly a cut-and-paste from the policy or procedure document with a few questions at the end with not much interactivity at all. There also wasn’t a structure around creating and building the eLearning modules themselves. So, I introduced a process for eLearning module development (I also use a variation for classroom courses). This development process is based on how I was taught to develop modules by the company who gave me my first opportunity as an instructional designer.

Here’s what our design process now looks like:

Process2

In this process, each stage builds on the work done in the previous one. This is what happens at each stage:

1. Kick-off meeting:

This is the first meeting I have with the Subject Matter Expert (SME) and where:

  • I give an overview of the development process and what will happen at each stage
  • We discuss the requirements for learning and the module
  • I ask questions about the topic, the learners, what they doing now and what they need to do after the course
  • I gather the content for module
  • I take lots of notes.

2. Design Strategy (DS):

A DS is an overview of what the module is about, the learner characteristics and what will be included – the objectives, order of topics, sub-topics and a summary of content, scenarios and activities. At this stage:

  • I produce a DS document based on information gathered from the kick-off meeting
  • I work out a structure for the module
  • I consult further with the SME (if required)
  • Once completed, I send the DS to the SME for feedback (including any other stakeholders)
  • I collate the feedback provided by the SME and incorporate into the DS
  • Then I send a revised DS back to the SME for approval and sign-off.

3. Storyboard:

A storyboard is a screen-by-screen breakdown of the module – text, narration, graphics and descriptions of interactions. It also includes any resources that the learners can use. At this stage:

  • I produce a storyboard based on the information contained in the DS document
  • I also create a few screen mock-ups, to show the look and feel of the course
  • Once completed, I send the storyboard to the SME for feedback
  • I collate the feedback provided by the SME and incorporate into the storyboard
  • Then I send a revised storyboard back to the SME for approval and sign-off.

4. Module Creation:

  • I create the e-learning module in our authoring tool (Articulate Storyline) using the content, images and instructions from the storyboard
  • I conduct some Quality Assurance (QA) to check functionality, spelling etc.
  • I have at least one of my colleagues look it over
  • Fix anything identified in the QA
  • I send the module to the SME for feedback
  • I collate any feedback provided by the SME and incorporate into the module
  • Then I send a revised module back to the SME for approval and sign-off.

5. Deployment:

  • Ideally, I like to send a module to a pilot group for testing and feedback
  • I then incorporate their feedback into the module
  • The e-learning module is deployed to the relevant staff via our LMS.

I use word documents for my DS and storyboard and I’ve created templates that I can use for each new module. Here’s a sample from the storyboard of our safety module:

Storyboard

I have used PowerPoint in the past for the storyboard (at the request of a client) and while it does allow you to see what the finished product will look like, I find using word helps the SME’s to focus on the words being used.

Overall, what I like about this process is that the SME’s are involved at each stage and have input as the module is developed – it’s an iterative process. While the above stages look straightforward, in reality it doesn’t always work as smoothly as I describe. What you are reading is the ideal way the process should work. However, in the workplace, the SME’s sometimes make more changes when you send a ‘final’ version for review, they may take longer to get feedback to you than they originally said (which holds things up) and may need some guidance during development, especially if they are new to it. I’ve come to realise that you need to manage these things as best you can.

It’s also important to mention that I don’t always say ‘yes’ to my SME’s requests,. Sometimes you need to push-back, especially if what is being asked is going to negatively impact the learning. I make sure I explain my reasons for not doing something. I find that his can be one of the most challenging aspects of development and something that I’ve worked on. I’m finding this easier to do as my levels of experience and confidence have grown.

I’ve learned that it’s important for modules to be designed in a way that aims to change behaviour and improve performance and are not just a transfer of information via a content dump. When I’m designing I like to think from the learners perspective and ask myself – could I sit through this module and enjoy it and learn something at the same time?

How do develop your eLearning modules?

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Show Your Work

 

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Exploring Personal Learning Networks: O Week

Earlier this week, the Exploring Personal Learning Networks open online seminar that I’ve enrolled in began. This will be my second MOOC experience and I’m looking forward to growing my PLN and strengthening relationships with other members of my network who are also participating. I wrote a post a few weeks ago where I started to think generally about PLN’s. I’m sure this seminar will provide an opportunity for me to connect, explore, think, reflect, and engage with others about this interesting and emerging area.

One of the things to do this week was to try something new. For me it was using Google+ which something quite new to me – hangouts, circles, posting to different sections. While a little frustrating at times, I’m finding that Google+ is pretty cool and I’m getting used to it with a little help from my friends.

It’s been terrific to start making connections with other participants by reading their backgrounds and getting to know them a little bit. In some posts that I’ve read, people have created a visual for their PLN. My version looks like this:

My PLN

There’s me at the centre of the network. I’ve put the Twitter and WordPress logos next as they have been the main two tools that have connected me to others in what I now know is my PLN. The surrounding circles represent different levels of contact and interaction between me and other people. The closer they are to the centre, the stronger the connection. The network itself isn’t fixed, people move in and out, some stay close for a long time and others for a shorter period. In a way it reflects relationships we have in our everyday lives. Each person within my PLN would probably have their own diagram similar to above which increases the interconnectedness between everyone. The thing about PLN’s is that some people might be aware they are part of your network and other my not even know. After all, you don’t send out a welcome pack and issue membership cards!

The rapid expansion of my PLN has come via the use of twitter. About a year ago, I started using twitter as an experiment to see how it works. At the time, I followed Cathy Moore and Ryan Tracey as I knew they were in the learning field and I was a reader of their blogs (I also followed friends and a few celebrity types). Back then I was an infrequent user. It pretty much stayed that way for a long time and then I found a few more learning practitioners and I started looking at articles and retweets they posted which led to discovering more people. I noticed some people were quite active and others not so much. It was the links from one to another that have led to the growth of my PLN. I’ve since ditched the celebrities and I’d say that about 95% of the people I follow on twitter working in the learning and related fields. I’m learning much more via informal channels now. On the downside, the larger your PLN the more information is coming through and as a result, I’m sure I miss stuff coming through but that’s ok because chances someone else may pick up on it and share again.

One of the themes that we’ll be working towards during the next few weeks is the use of PLN’s in an organisational context. At this early stage, I’m a little uncomfortable with this. I think this is because for me, my PLN is separate from my organisation and I’m in control of it. My organisation, still benefits from what I’m learning but its informal and I engage with my network in my own time. My concern is that if organisations become involved things could change and I’ll lose that level of control and it won’t be the same – my world’s could collide! (maybe watch the clip if you don’t know what happens when world’s collide).

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this learning experience and where it takes us.

learn-network-op1-crop

 
 

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Working with Cognitive Load

When I first started working as an e-Learning instructional designer I became interested in the learning process and how people learn. I figured that if I knew more about information processing and learning, I could hopefully design more effective courses. I came across a book called Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load by Ruth Colvin Clark, Frank Nguyen and John Sweller. In this book I discovered – among other things – Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) which is based on studies of human cognitive architecture – how we process and organise information.

In our brains, we have two types of memory. One is our working memory, which we use to process new information. The capacity of our working memory is quite limited so it can only handle so much before it becomes overloaded. The second is our long-term memory, which is where we store information from our working memory and where we retrieve that information from later. Within our long-term memory, information is organised into schemas, which are organisational frameworks of storage (like filing cabinets). Not exceeding working memory capacity will result in greater transfer of information into long-term memory.

CLT proposes that there are three types of cognitive load:

Intrinsic: this is the level of complexity inherent in the material being studied. There isn’t much that we can do about intrinsic cognitive load; some tasks are more complex than others so will have different levels of intrinsic cognitive load.

Extraneous: this is cognitive load imposed by non-relevant elements that require extra mental processing e.g. decorative pictures, animations etc. that add nothing to the learning experience.

Germane: these are elements that allow cognitive resources to be put towards learning i.e. assist with information processing.

The three types of cognitive load are additive so according to the theory, for instruction to be effective:

Intrinsic load + Extraneous load + Germane load < Working memory capacity

To assist learners in transferring information from their working memory to their long-term memory, we need to present the information in such a way that it reduces extraneous cognitive load (non-relevant items) and, if possible, increases germane cognitive load (items that assist with information processing). Note: I’ve found that much of the literature tends to focus on reducing extraneous cognitive load.

CLT

Mayer and Moreno (2003) conducted research into ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Their research, built on CLT, was based on three assumptions:

  1. Humans possess separate information processing channels for verbal and visual material (Dual Channel).
  2. There is only a limited amount of processing capacity available via the visual (eyes) and verbal (ears) channels (Limited Capacity).
  3. Learning requires substantial cognitive processing via the visual and verbal channels (Active Processing).

They found that designers should do the following to assist learners in processing information:

  • Present some information via the visual channel and some via the verbal channel.
  • Break content into smaller segments and allow the learner to control the pace.
  • Remove non-essential content – this includes background music and decorative pictures that don’t add value.
  • Words should be placed close as possible to the corresponding graphics.
  • Don’t narrate on-screen text.
  • Synchronise visual and verbal content i.e. don’t place them on separate screens.

As instructional designers, we need to be aware of the cognitive requirements our designs impose and ensure that our learners can meet those requirements. We must also ensure that all aspects of our design focus on adding value to the learning experience.

References:

Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load (2006) by Ruth Colvin Clark, Frank Nguyen and John Sweller. Pfeiffer

Mayer, R. E. & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist. 38, (1), 43-52.

 
 

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