How to Motivate and Retain Online Learners

Dr. Curtis Bonk gives ideas on how to motivate students online, hosted by Contact North.

About Contact North

Contact North is an organization that supports rural and remote Ontario for distance education. Their resources include learning portals for studying, training and teaching online. You can find upcoming webinars registration or past recordings on their website. 

About Dr. Curtis Bonk

Dr. Bonk is a Professor of Instructional Systems Technology (IST) at the School of Education in Indiana University. His research focuses on learning technologies, online/blended learning and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). He is presenting the key findings of his book Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online. In this session, he suggests activities on how to motivate students using the TEC-VARIETY Model.

Motivation and the TEC-VARIETY Model

View the session recording and slidedeck: How to Motivate and Retain Online Learners

Dr. Curtis Bonk and Dr. Elaine Khoo repurposed the idea of motivation from Edward Deci's Intrinsic Motivation book. They developed the 10 motivational principles model, TEC-VARIETY, which will help motivate learners and increase their retention. 

Image Credit: What Motivates Graphic from Adding Some TEC-VARIETY Book

Here are some top ideas for each principle from Dr. Bonk's webinar! When planning for any activity, be sure to consider its risk of implementation, time, cost, and whether it is student-centered.

Tone  Create a safe and welcoming learning environment
enlightened Small breakout rooms can be more comfortable spaces for students who might be too shy to speak up in the main room. 
enlightened Anonymous voting (such as the poll function in Bb Collaborate) is a solution to low engagement in your synchronous lectures.
Encouragement – Give feedback and offer support
enlightened Be responsive! Make sure to set clear communication timelines with email and discussion board responses.
enlightened Create online practice tests and interactive flash cards decks so that students can get immediate feedback on their work. Quizlet is a great tool for online flash cards!
Curiosity – Embrace the unknown and encourage student's curiosity
enlightened Mix teaching course materials with current day events.
enlightened Introduce new topics that align with current research.
Variety – FUN! Try out different teaching styles and incorporate game-based learning.
enlightened Incorporate a game show style for test/quiz review. Popular ones are Jeopardy and Kahoot!
Autonomy – Let the students choose what they learn.
enlightened Reward students for taking a MOOC relating to the class.
enlightened Let students research on a topic on their choice and present to class.
Relevance – Establish meaningfulness in course materials
enlightened Invite guest speakers from the industry.
enlightened Analyze case studies!
Interactivity  Build a collaborative community
enlightened Use Piazza to create a student-teacher network for class discussions.
Engagement – Student involvement
enlightened Use virtual simulations and labs wherever possible. Labster is a popular software for chemistry!
Tension – Challenge students
enlightened Develop debates or roleplay activities on a current issue.
Yielding Products  Let students to set their own learning goals
enlightened A good activity idea might be to edit the Wiki page for a course topic.
enlightened It can be reflective and purposeful to get students to write down a letter to their future self in the beginning of the semester, documenting their learning goals. Futureme.org is great for this!

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