Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

About two months ago I started a course on Coursera.org

Before I start on my experiences, I want to make it clear that I absolutely 100% support free education such as courses on Coursera.org and FreeMoodle.org. I love the fact that we’re making this information and education accessible to anyone who can get on the Internet – which, to be fair, is pretty much anyone these days. Yes yes, there are still people in third world countries who can’t. But didn’t we recently have an ad on TV saying that the Internet in some rural, out-of-the-way small country was better than what we have here in NZ? And we have it free in our public libraries here. You don’t even need to bring your own computer.

I digress.

Free education is coming to the world, and it looks great.

Coursera.org looks really great. There are many universities around the world who are contributing actual, tertiary-level course material. They are building these courses, which include video lectures (which can be downloaded to your computer or device and viewed at your leisure), quizzes, peer assessments, assignments, exams… all the things you would expect from a tertiary level course. And they’re delivered entirely online, and entirely free.

What’s not to like?

So I did a course called Gamification. I have to say that at the start I was very motivated. The content was interesting, I handed in my assignments and got full marks, I got full marks on the quizzes. Yet I never completed the course. I never did the final assignment or the final exam.

Why? What happened?

What happened is the same thing that happens to a lot of students. They come into the semester all motivated, enthused, keen to try something new and exciting. Then about midway through, no matter how exciting or interesting the material, motivation lacks.

In fact, this gamification course talked a lot about motivation.

At the start there was a lot of intrinsic motivation to do the course. I was keen, I wanted to learn new things for myself. I was a motivated student.

When I got full marks on the first quiz I was motivated to continue. A little bit of extrinsic motivation there. Same with the grades on the first assignment, though they took a while to get to me. The feedback on that wasn’t quite immediate enough for the motivation to hit me.

By the time I got to the last week, I had no more intrinsic motivation left, and there was no extrinsic motivation for me to continue with the course.

  • I hadn’t paid for it, so I wasn’t losing any money.
  • No one else was requiring me to do this course for any reason, so I wasn’t letting anyone down.
  • I wasn’t going to get a qualification.

The only extrinsic motivation I could find was, “Oh, it would be neat to put this on my CV and maybe get the certificate.” It wasn’t enough.

So I suffered the same fate that a lot of other students do – I stopped trying. I stopped working. I was interested in the material, but without any further motivation to read / watch it, I found more interesting things to do with my time. I had no investment in completing the course, so I just didn’t.

What could have been done to keep me interested? I’m not sure, but I know what frustrated me:

  • Having to wait so long for feedback on my assignments.
  • Having to watch 10 – 15 videos in one week (the format never changed, I would have liked some variety – podcasts, videos, text, interactive journeys)

And this course was only 6 weeks long.

I signed up to another course called Design. We’re one and a bit weeks in and I haven’t even watched the first lot of videos or submitted the first assignment. I’ve lost this one before I’ve even started. The lack of motivation that I felt in finishing the first course leaked over into this course, causing me to not even start it. And I LOVE the idea of design.

So I will be taking a rest from the free online courses until I can figure out why I lost the motivation so utterly and completely that I didn’t even bother starting the second one, and what I can do to make sure that motivation stays. Perhaps if I figure that out, I can figure out some sort of secret formula that can be applied to the classroom as well!


Source: Miriam’s MoodleLair feed


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