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Category Archives: Instructional Design

The Journey Continues…

It’s been several weeks since my last post about B Online Learning’s Master eLearning course that I’m working through. We’ve moved through the second module and covered chunking content, writing for eLearning, using simulations, interactivity, checking for understanding just to name a few. I can’t believe that we’re well over half-way time is moving so quickly.

In this second stage of the course we were to develop a piece of eLearning that can be for use in your workplace if you want it to be. I’m not going down that path because I want to develop a sample for my portfolio of examples and to also tap into the expert guidance we have available during the course. While this will be beneficial for me, my brief is effectively “create a small piece of eLearning on any topic you choose” which is kind of daunting. Along with the topic, I needed to create a bit of a backstory as well – learner characteristics etc. so, as I have an interest in craft beer and brewing so I thought I’d go with that and I might learn a bit more about the topic too. I also wanted to showcase some of what I can do in terms of design and use of Storyline.

When I’m putting a module together I like to take a pen/pencil and write my ideas down on paper. I jot down random thoughts and think about how the module might look in terms of images, the theme of the course, anything really. While it looks a bit messy, it does help me to clarify my thinking and get my ideas down.

MEC Notes

 

In the MEC we’re using PowerPoint to create our storyboard which is ok, and although I’ve used Word in the past this way works well too and it’s clear how the screens will be set out. I found that storyboarding in ppt was great for a couple of reasons – the SME gets a much better idea about how the course will look and also because you can get some of the decisions about layout sorted earlier in the development process. I found that using Master slides saved heaps of time and I’m loving using them! Here are some of my screens from the PPT:

MEC PPT

 

Once the storyboard was completed I sent it to Ruth for some feedback. What I liked about the feedback I received was that it was both positive and constructive. It was detailed for some screens and Ruth offered some great suggestions for improvement that I have since incorporated.

I’ve now built the module in Articulate Storyline and here are some samples screens from the finished product:

Explore the Pub

This screen is my ‘Home’ page. I have four topics, each is a different area of the pub that learners go to – The Cellar is about beer and brewing, The Bar is about pouring beer and using the right glass, The Lounge is about different beer styles and The Restaurant is about matching beer with food. Different areas unlock when other areas are completed. The quiz appears once all areas have been completed.

 

Brewing Beer2

This screen depicts the brewing process and I’ve included it because each icon was made using the ‘Insert Shapes’ functionality in PowerPoint. Learners hover their cursor over each icon to find out about that stage of the brewing process.

 

Bringing it Together

This screen is the opening of the ‘Quiz’ instead of having a pass mark, learners just need to fill their glass of beer and they can do this by answering questions correctly. A minimum of 10 questions will do it but if they do get a question wrong they receive a different question. If they get that one wrong they go back to the original question. In all there are 20 questions in total.

 

In the MEC, like many other courses, you do need to be disciplined and allocate a few hours each week to work on the course otherwise it’s easy to fall behind. In addition to the assessment tasks there’s self-paced modules to complete and webinars to attend. While there’s plenty to do, Ruth’s weekly email updates are a good source of information and encouragement to help keep us on track.

In the course itself, it’s good to see things picking up in the forum area ‘Connect’ as other people share articles and comment or ‘like’ others. As someone who uses twitter as part of my own development, it’s nice to be able to interact with others and hopefully encourage them to keep this going after the course has finished.

I’m looking forward to the final stage of the course, where we will be learning how to facilitate in the online environment – something that I haven’t done much of at all.

This is the second in a series of posts describing and reflecting on my experiences of the Master eLearning Course by B Online Learning.

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The Journey Begins

A couple of weeks ago, I began the Master eLearning Course (MEC) that is run by B Online Learning and over the next three months along with the rest of my cohort we will design, deliver and facilitate an eLearning course.

I find that eLearning courses fall into one of two categories, either stand-alone modules developed in an authoring tool (which is usually what I create and develop) or ones like the MEC that are facilitated by a person, a Learning Coach in this case, over a period of weeks or months. I’ve had some experience of this type of facilitated online delivery as a participant and it has generally consisted of a list of resources to be read, activities to maybe complete and very little contact from the facilitator. However, this not how the MEC operates, the structure is clear and defined and the support has been terrific.

Our group is also fortunate that our Learning Coach is Ruth McElhone who is very experienced in this form of design and delivery. She’s like the Obi-wan Kenobi of online facilitators (with Princess Leia looks) and by the end of the course I’m sure our group will become eLearning Jedi.

Luke Skywalker

MEC combines the use of Articulate Storyline modules within the LearnFlex LMS that also has discussion forums and other places to interact and share with students via Connect. So far, there’s been a good amount of information delivered in a variety of ways. Interaction is encouraged and rewarded by using gamification to motivate us to reach ‘Contributor’ status. There are also plenty of resources to download and refer to later depending on what you want to learn more about.

One of the strengths of MEC is that even though it’s mapped to two Units of Competence from the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, it doesn’t have the feeling that we are just working through the elements and performance criteria of each unit that you get from other VET courses.

My initial thoughts are that it’s a great course for those who are new to the world of eLearning design and development. MEC lays a good foundation in these areas and while I do have some eLearning instructional design experience, I haven’t been bored and if anything it’s been a good refresher. I wish I had done this or something similar earlier in my eLearning career.

Already in the first module of the course we’ve looked at rapid eLearning, scoping a project, stakeholders involved, copyright, health and safety, learner characteristics, accessibility, authoring tools, Learning Management Systems, SCORM and eLearning development teams.

There’s a lot to take in but like any form of study you need to dedicate time and effort into learning and developing your knowledge and skills. It’s self-paced so you can complete the topics in your own time and as much or as little as you like. I believe that it’s also beneficial to get involved in the discussions and sharing with others in the group. Not because you have to as part of the course but because that’s what helps to build and sustain a community of professionals long after the course is finished.

I’m looking forward to what the next few weeks have in store and as well as sharing the development of my own eLearning course.

This is the first of a series of posts describing and reflecting on my experiences of the Master eLearning Course by B Online Learning.

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eLearning Blunders

Blunder: a stupid or careless mistake.

Alternative words: mistake, error, gaffe, fault, slip, oversight, inaccuracy, botch.

Bad eLearning

This post was inspired by David Anderson’s eLearning challenge: Death, Taxes and E-Learning Mistakes. The purpose of the challenge was to highlight blunders found in eLearning courses and Articulate Community members provided many great examples of what not to do.

I wanted to bring these examples together and share them here (just in case you haven’t seen the challenge). I’ve taken the blunders identified and grouped them into categories.

Layout:

Double branding of screens.

Split attention (having to combine information together to make sense of it).

‘Previous’ button on the first slide and ‘Next’ button on the last slide.

Many different backgrounds.

All slide space filled.

No contrast.

No reuse of design elements (e.g. titles are all different).

Poor positioning of screen elements.

Menu items in the wrong order.

Terrible, eye-searing colour scheme.

Timing issues e.g. characters/photos appearing on-screen at the same time, when that wasn’t the intention.

No way to exit a layer.

Being able to click on buttons on the base layer while viewing a layer.

Branding the course with company logo on every slide.

Redundant/confusing navigation.

Poor alignment of screen content.

Inconsistent use of colours.

Text:

Poor grammatical construction.

Long lines of text.

Bloated wording.

Inconsistent font types.

Spelling mistakes.

Using words that don’t actually exist.

Incorrect punctuation.

Tacky font choices (e.g. Chiller and Curlz MT).

Colour choices that make some of the text almost impossible to read.

Font choices/sizes that are difficult to read.

Too many exclamation points and ellipses.

Sizing on the bullets for bulleted lists.

Small text that is all jammed together making it hard to read.

Images:

Using decorative graphics.

Images copied from iStock and have the watermark on them.

Random, dated clip art.

Cropped characters that appear to float.

Meaningless pictures.

Images that are various styles.

Overlapping images.

Stretched images.

Audio:

Bad voiceover that fades in and out with background noise.

Monotonous tone of voice.

Poor soundtrack.

Text-to-speech narration giving the course a robotic feel.

Animation of text and objects are poorly synchronized to the audio.

Video:

Media/content that makes no sense.

General:

Repeating the same information via different modes.

URL’s that don’t work.

Closed caption that lags behind the spoken word.

Link / 404 errors.

Resources button that does not work.

No attention to detail.

Overuse of animation.

Boring content dump followed by a quiz.

Way to much instruction for how to use the course.

Default quiz and feedback slides.

Courses that are excessively long.

Elements like the Resources tab turned on even thought there are not resources.

 

Some of the Community members (including myself) put together or shared some samples that show the types of errors listed above. Click here to view them.

In a recent blog post, Jonathan Kettleborough talked about some eLearning errors that really give this form of learning a bad name. He referred to the mediocrity of some courses that he has completed because they contain errors that should have been picked up before the course was released. The post is definitely worth reading.

Many of these blunders can be overcome by a thorough quality assurance process and piloting of the course before release – maybe a checklist of items to look for would help? The others require eLearning professionals to develop their skills and knowledge into how people process information and also how to design for the online environment.

I hope that by bringing these types of blunders out into the open, we can make a conscious effort not to keep making mistakes that result in a poor user experience and generally give eLearning a bad name.

As people involved in creating eLearning, let’s eliminate blunders in our courses!

What are some eLearning blunders that you’ve come across?

 

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Practice and Sharing: The Keys to Success

These were the two messages that stood out over three days in Sydney at the iDesignX Australian Instructional Design Conference (21st March) sponsored by B Online Learning & Articulate the eLearning Design Workshops with Tom Kuhlmann and David Anderson (22nd and 23rd March). I was fortunate to attend the sessions in Sydney last week and for me it was a dream come true to not only be in the same room as Tom and David but to hear and learn directly from them (I also got to meet them which was an incredible experience and a real highlight too).

Practice

As someone with a keen interest in learning generally, but eLearning in particular, I’m always looking to other experienced people in the learning field to find out how I can improve my own skills and knowledge. While it would be great if there was a magic pill you could swallow and voila! you’d be transformed into an eLearning whizz, the reality is that when you look at anyone who is successful in their field, the one thing they have in common is a commitment to developing their skills over a period of time. Tom and David are no exception to this. Over the years they have worked on many projects but they also make time to experiment and try new things. The speakers at iDesignX also showed that they have put in a lot of effort over the years to get to where they are today.

Tip: a good place to start practicing your eLearning skills is in David’s Weekly Challenge. You can also learn more about building great eLearning courses at Tom’s Rapid eLearning blog.

Sharing

Tom and David are role models when it comes to sharing. Their jobs at Articulate along with their travel schedule must keep them extremely busy. However, they are extremely generous with their time and have a great willingness share what they know, provide advice and help anyone who needs it. It’s something all learning professionals can learn from and do more of.

So, in the interests of sharing, here’s firstly what I took away from iDesignX (you can also check out all the tweets at #iDesignX):

“Instructional design is about crafting the appropriate learning experience. We need to reframe content so that it’s meaningful and relevant. Then we need to give learners something to think about and have them make decisions.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

“Tips when using virtual training: prepare and support participants, consider cognitive load, design for different levels of engagement, have learners interact often, support facilitators, pilot the training and test, test, test, test.” Brenda Smith – Medibank Health

“When using video in learning experiences, authenticity is very important.” Mark Parry – Parryville Media

“Clean and balance (in graphic design) creates stability and can direct learner focus.” Minh Nguyen – DEEWR “Using curation for learning design > collect, filter, evaluate, arrange, present, distribute.” Anne Bartlett-Bragg – Ripple Effect Group

“Before you gamify your eLearning course, make sure it meets the learning objectives.” Ruth McElhone – B Online Learning

“Learning experiences should be meaningful, memorable and motivating.” Ruth McElhone – B Online Learning

“Using video for manual or process tasks shows the correct way to do something.” Tony Nye – Australian Red Cross Blood Service

“Pictures clarify words and stories add context to content.” Blair Rorani – Ever Learning

BTW this is the ninja I drew during Blair’s session:

Ninja

“What makes an industry pro? Experience; Skills (practice your craft); Authority and Luck.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

“Luck is where opportunity and preparation meet.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

“You need to be proactive and look for opportunities. Sharing expertise creates opportunities.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

And from the workshops with Tom and David:

On using PowerPoint for eLearning:

PowerPoint is a really good tool to create an interactive eLearning course. While you can’t do everything that an authoring tool does, hyperlinking from one slide to another can create the feel of an eLearning course. PowerPoint is also handy for creating and editing graphics, just look at this photo frame I created using edit points and soft edges:

Photo frame

Also, what I was able to do by modifying clipart images (before on left, after on right):

Clip art 1

Clip art 2

On designing an eLearning course:

Ask yourself:

  1. What content needs to be in the course?
  2. What is the right look and feel?
  3. What is the learner supposed to do?

Be intentional, stick with a consistent design and don’t settle for defaults (colours, fonts etc.) On eLearning makeovers: Review the five common components of eLearning courses:

  1. Text – should be from the same font family
  2. Elements – the goal is unity not uniformity
  3. Colours – use colour for contrast and emphasis
  4. Background – it should contribute to the visual and not dominate
  5. People – if you use characters maintain unity

On interactivity:

Interactivity connects the user to content. There are two types of interactivity:

  • Touch – the learner interacts with the screen (by clicking, dragging or hovering)
  • Decision – the learner interacts with the content.

On Learning Objectives:

When thinking about learning objectives, ask yourself:

  • Who is the learner?
  • What is the situation?
  • What do you want them to do?
  • How can they prove it?

On building interactive eLearning:

  • Know your tools – don’t build clunky courses
  • Create relevant content
  • Use stories for learning especially if there’s a lot of content
  • Remember the 3 C’s:
    • Challenge the learner
    • Give them choices
    • Have consequences for decisions

There were at least a couple of hundred people at the conference and about 80 people each day at the workshops. If everyone incorporates just one or two of the things they learned into their eLearning courses the quality would certainly improve. But if everyone also shared what they’ve learned with others in the field, it would help to improve even more courses and contribute to building a strong community of learning professionals!

All in all it was a great three days of learning from the best in the field and also chance to meet lots of people that I’d only known via Twitter and make the physical connection. Let’s follow Tom and David’s example by practicing our skills and sharing what we know so that we can develop ourselves as well as others.

If you went to the conference and/or the workshops what did you learn and have you shared it yet?

Footnote: This post originally appeared on the B Online Learning website.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Instructional Design

 

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Enhancing Learning Experiences

At a recent L&D Meetup, we were talking to each other about what we’d been working on since we last caught up. A couple of friends were discussing changes to the Privacy Act and the e-learning courses that have been developed to communicate these changes to the employees in their respective workforces.

The industries I’m talking about here are finance and insurance so I’ve no doubt each of the Legal Departments have been frantically enforcing the necessary amendments to the systems/policies/procedures across each organisation. It also sounded like the e-learning modules contain everything there is to know about the privacy legislation! They were saying that there hadn’t been too much direct focus on privacy for a while but these changes had breathed some life back into the area and now it was more urgent to make people ‘aware’.

I was reflecting on this on the weekend (actually, I was vacuuming my place at the time and I was thinking about the night before) and I know these legislative/compliance type topics are generally quite dry – although it’s no excuse to blame your content  – and normally compliance means that employees will be ‘forced’ to complete the learning. So, we’re already on the back-foot because most employees won’t really want to do it to begin with. This highlighted to me two important and often neglected areas of learning design – motivating people and sustaining the learning afterwards.

Motivation

Motivation

I’ve written a couple of posts about motivation and Ryan and Dec’s self-determination theory (SDT) of motivation before. At this point feel free to do one or more of the following:

  1. Click here and here to read the previous posts.
  2. Keep reading this post for a summarised version of the previous posts and some strategies for improving motivation in e-learning.
  3. Scroll down to the Sustaining the Learning section.

Essentially, the SDT focuses on the degree in which behaviour is self-motivated and self-determined. We all have three basic psychological needs:

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

Contexts that satisfy these needs will result in more sustained motivation over time. If we apply this theory to e-learning and we use strategies to support these needs in the design of the course, we can improve learner motivation even if they are required to complete a course by their organisation.

How can this be achieved in practice?

Here are five examples, with some practical applications that I came up with:

1. Give people some control as they work through the module or course.

  • Let them choose how they navigate through the course
  • Give the option to skip parts that they already know
  • Provide opportunities to explore different parts of the course.

2. Allow people to make meaningful choices and pursue challenging goals

  • Use branching scenarios that have consequences for decisions made
  • Increase the difficulty of challenges as the person works through a topic
  • Offer rewards based on challenges completed rather than screens visited.

3. Provide opportunities for collaboration between learners

  • Get people working together on tasks/activities that help develop competence
  • Provide topic discussion areas and space to share resources or to ask questions.

4. Keep the stakes low and allow practice

  • Provide multiple opportunities to apply the material they are learning to context specific situations
  • Give them time to repeat practice activities until they succeed
  • Provide tools and aids that can be used during the course and then back on the job.

5. Provide regular, meaningful feedback throughout the learning experience

  • Let people know how they are going and where they are up to

Motivation is important in any learning experience. If we can help satisfy the psychological needs of our people, we can improve their motivation towards the course they are completing even if they have to complete it.

Sustain

Sustaining the Learning

Often when we complete an e-learning course (or classroom course, for that matter) it’s confined to a defined period of time. There may be a build up to the course but then once learners complete it, and are deemed ‘competent’ it’s back to work. Move on. They’ve been trained. The box has been ticked.

Sustaining the learning after an event, be it online or classroom, presents a real opportunity for us in L&D. All too often, in my experience, after people complete a learning event they go back to work and it’s business as usual. Surely we can do more to sustain what has been delivered and bring about some meaningful change? If we just do things once in a course, it will be forgotten if the information is not reinforced.

Last year, I read some interesting blog posts by Craig Taylor who implemented a campaign approach to compliance training in an organisation he worked for. I thought this was a wonderful idea so I floated doing something similar with our compliance program to our risk and compliance officer. It hasn’t been done before in my organisation and the good news is that I’m getting support from others and things are building (I’ll write a dedicated post about it in the next month or so).

Using social tools and creating opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge are other powerful ways that can sustain learning over the longer term. Maybe if we did this, we wouldn’t need so many courses?

How do you motivate your people towards learning and sustain it afterwards in your organisation?

 
 

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2013: My Blog Writing Rookie Year

I’ve never kept a diary or journal before and I’ve never been one to write on a regular basis, let alone make it publicly available on the internet. If you had told me in April (when I posted for the first time) that I would have written 26 posts by the end of the year I probably would have laughed and said “I don’t think I’ve got that much to say”. But, by taking the time to reflect on my experiences and document what I’ve learned along the way, it turned out that I had a bit to say after all.

I’ve found that writing this blog has helped me organise my thinking on a number of different topic areas (motivation, gamification, instructional design, cognitive architecture and PLNs) and the feedback and comments I’ve received have both challenged and consolidated my ideas, so I’m all the better for both. Its also helped me to become a better writer – although I’ve still much to learn.

My top posts for the year based on views are:

  1. Letting go of Learning Styles
  2. Integrating Motivation with Instructional Design
  3. Working with Cognitive Load
  4. Video Games and Motivation
  5. 25 Tips for Successful Online Facilitation

2013

I’d like to thank everyone who has read, commented on or shared any of my posts throughout the year. It means a lot that people have found a post personally useful or thought it was worth sharing with others who may find some value in it.

In trying to improve my writing and also to learn from others in the field, I started reading and subscribing to other blogs – another first for me. There’s a lot going on in the learning field and there are plenty of different perspectives that shine through from the blogs I read. While I don’t believe that there are necessarily good blogs and bad blogs as every writer has their own unique style and point of view, the following posts (in no particular order) were memorable to me as I think back over the year:

Finally, I’ve been fortunate enough to interact, connect with and learn from many amazing learning and development people over the course of the year. Thank-you all for inspiring, challenging and supporting me during 2013.

Merry Christmas and cheers to a happy, healthy and educational 2014!

 

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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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