Motivating and engaging learners can be challenging in any learning environment. But understanding self-determination theory will give you a structure for helping you do this. Self Determination Theory represents a broad framework for the study of human motivation. It suggests that when people are motivated to grow and change, they become self-determined.
We become more self-determined when we:
- Master tasks and learn different skills (Competence)
- Feel a sense of attachment and belonging to people (Relatedness)
- Feel in control of our own goals and behaviours. (Autonomy)
Moreover, when people engage in activities for an inherent reward, (intrinsic motivation) it’s more motivating than carrot and stick ones (extrinsic motivation). For educators, this means that when designing online learning, it’s important to think about how to incorporate the elements listed above into online lessons or curriculum.
Creating Online Learning Experiences to Motivate and Engage Learners
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing a number of evidence-based strategies to help educators motivate and engage your learners in online teaching environments. The strategies and activities will:
- Encourage student-to-student interaction.
- Facilitate online discussions, virtual brainstorming, and problem-based learning, and
- Develop reflective thinking practices.
Because I don’t want to keep you waiting, check out educator Michael Cohen’s three strategies for increasing student engagement online that you can use in your classes today!
Teaching Online Masterclass (TOM) Series 2
In 2020 we released series 1 of TOM. A series of over 50 bite-sized videos to help educators navigate the world of online teaching and learning. Series 2 will take what was included in series 1 further. It will look at the drivers of motivation, engagement, and learning, as well as the key skills educators, need to develop in their students for online learning success.
If you’re curious to find out how educators around the world are faring, check out some of the interviews and blogs we published last year.
Taking Classes Online Interviews
Episode 1, Dr. Heather McClue about the trials and tribulations of taking her law classes online.
Episode 2, Eduardo Mórlan gives advice on how to teach languages remotely.
Episode 3, Physical Education teacher Kylene Simmons talks about how her school used technology to engage students in health and physical education classes.
Taking Classes Online Blogs
Finally, if you’ve got a story to share or would like to write a blog, send me an email and I’ll be in touch.
Chyung, S.Y., (2001) Systematic and systemic approaches to reducing attrition rates in online higher education. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(3): 36-49 DOI: 10.1080/08923640109527092
Kerr, S. (2011). High school online: Pedagogy, preferences, and practices of three online teachers. Journal of Educational Technology Systems,39, 221–244. doi:10.2190/ET.39.3.b
Park, J-H., & Choi, H.J., (2009) Factors influencing adult learners’ decision to drop out or persist in online learning. Educational Technology and Society, 12(4):207-217
Roblyer, M.D. (1999) Is choice important in distance learning? A study of student motives for taking internet-based courses at high school and community college levels, Journal of Research in Computing in Education, 32(1):157-171, https://doi.org/10.1080/08886504.1999.10782621
Ryan, R.M., and Deci, R.M. ( 2000) Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being, American Psychologist, 55(1): 68-78, DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68
Sankarn, S.R., and Bui, T. (2001) Impact learning strategies and motivation on performance: A study in web-based instruction, Journal of Instructional Psychology, 28: 191-198
Skinner, E. A., & Belmont, M. J. (1993). Motivation in the classroom: Reciprocal effects of teacher behavior and student engagement across the school year. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(4), 571–581. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06220.127.116.111
2021 has started off with homeschooling in the UK. A webinar I attended earlier this week on Lessons Learned from Covid-19, made it clear the correct term is online learning and not remote learning as there is nothing remote about it. It certainly brings us closer together in that virtual way, but it also opens up new opportunities, such as amazing guest lectures from people who would have otherwise never travelled to give a lecture. You can watch Educate’s webinar here.
At Makematic, we’re continuing to do our best to support those teaching and learning from home with great educational content. For all the teachers out there, you can have a look at our Teaching Online Masterclass course, which justifiably puts pedagogy right at the heart. Our first Masterclass was a huge success, so we’re now in the process of creating a second one and we can’t wait to share it with you in Spring.
The second ongoing project I wanted to highlight is our Untold History collection. Especially, after this week’s events in Washington and Georgia, there isn’t a better time than now to educate children about America’s incredible history through stories about people, artefacts and events that perhaps aren’t that well known. These videos are sure to engage students and could be a great starting point for a debate. Visit https://untoldhistory.org/ to watch the videos.
Finally, a story that was written during the first lockdown, but is even more apt now. There’s a huge immediate need for Social-Emotional Learning not just in the classroom, but also in the workplace and at home. There should be a greater focus on adult’s and children’s health and well-being in all that we do.
Wishing you all the best for 2021.
This year we’ve all had to learn to do lots of things in different ways. Central to my business life are conferences and exhibitions, an opportunity to get together with those who are like-minded, share our knowledge, learn from each other, show our best and get to know one and other better face-to-face.
This month I’ve attended two – Edutech Middle East and Frankfurt Book Fair. Although covering different subject areas, the themes were similar. In the case of Edutech, how are schools and learning systems changing because of the global pandemic and in the case of the Frankfurt Book Fair, how is the publishing industry changing in a brand new online world?
In both instances, the switch in demand to digital services for education and content has been sudden and considerable. This was backed up by major education publishers – on 5th October The Bookseller published an article where Pearson, Scholastic and Hodder all reported that digital sales were sky-rocketing as a result of the global pandemic. In the Middle East, where oil-rich states spend lavish amounts on technology, content and infrastructure, AI has been the saviour helping to manage the massive amounts of data which are being generated by a full switch to a digital learning world.
It hasn’t been a case of having to start from scratch either. There has been massive investment in the education sector in the creation of digital learning resources, the technology to deliver these and the infrastructure needed for learners to effectively learn in a purely digital world for around 20 years. It wasn’t though until these had to be relied on 100%, that they were relied on 100%. The pandemic has accelerated everything. Those publishers whose digital infrastructure and content were strong, structured and ready to deliver has benefitted tremendously whereas those whose wasn’t have had a tough time.
In the world of education in the Middle East, a parallel and similar story has played out to the same conclusion. The technology has been in place for some time, but it was the pandemic which was the catalyst to make a full transition to the widespread use of that technology by teachers and students in their day-to-day lives.
The biggest changes I’ve had to face in my daily life this year is the huge increase in screen time and the complete lack of human interaction other than by a screen that I’m having right now. I’m pretty larger than life and over the years have enjoyed participating in hundreds of physical conferences and exhibitions. I enjoy getting together en masse with like-minded people from my industry or area of specific interest and discussing all the ins and outs of these, meeting new people and learning new facts and points of view. Since March I’ve been out of my house for business on two occasions and now with everyone glued to their screens because conferences are back in full swing, I’ve learned that watching short video precis of conference presentations which some are producing, or having the video and sound on whilst sitting in the digital networking area, or whilst making comments/asking questions in the chat field to the panel, is allowing a different and unique sort of involvement.
At both online conferences, I’ve been able to make new contacts and ask questions which were answered. Whilst I’ve missed seeing people that I’ve known for many years, and I’ve missed the physical interaction which is lost in the 2D world of a presentational live stream or video, I’m finding different and interesting ways to manoeuvre my way through the proceedings of an online conference.
All around us things have changed this year. The feedback from learners I hear both from my own children and those presenting as case studies at conferences is that the educational world they’re in now is one that they recognize more than before. I have noticed the considerable uptick in digital learning that my son’s school have offered this year – a full online learning platform with interactive video, games and puzzles helping him through the maze of really getting to grips with reading, writing arithmetic in year one at school. We had our first year one parent/teacher meeting on Zoom!
My hope is that we will return soon a more normal way of living. I hope to be able to visit in person conferences and exhibitions again that are relevant to my work and business sector.
But for the time being, my trusty laptop and smartphone are doing the hard yards and bringing the world to me.
The whole notion of online teaching and professional development is not an old one. In fact, I was surprised to learn that its history begins way back in 1981 when the Western Behavioural Sciences Inst in La Jolla, CA, started running distance education for business executives via computer conferencing. Since then, many multinational businesses have grown within the space and traditional businesses have metamorphosised through a move to online learning.
Kids are turning up aged 5 at school now with a digital-savvy to rival the best. Teachers have access to whiteboards, laptops, internet connections, online resources from publishers, brands, non-profits, digital content, VLEs and it all works swimmingly. Right? Well judging by what I have seen of my son’s first one year and one month of primary school, there’s still room for improvement.
When faced with a complete lockdown and need to provide proper online teaching, the local education system, appeared to creak at the seams. Maybe it is because it doesn’t seem as though there has been a concerted effort to couple the introduction of new technology in schools, with the introduction of blended learning methodology in teacher training. This would overall raise the bar in state education and without this approach, digital learning and digital content become ancillary to the ‘analogue’ classroom experience.
My first interaction with online digital learning was around 15 years ago in the professional space when a member of my team excitedly showed me Lynda.com, now of course Linked In Learning. Lynda was the gateway to the world of online learning for me – many of the experiments and projects we were attempting to do at that time as an early digital publishing team, were beyond our combined knowledge and capability, and being on tight budgets invariably we would learn software packages or web design techniques via the easy-to-use searchable interface that Lynda provided. I didn’t look back.
Since then, there has been a massive increase in the amount of both office and classroom hardware and software being produced and sold all around the world along with all manner of different attendant courses on how to make everything work.
In the classroom, the ubiquitous classroom whiteboard is supplemented with voting pads, laptops, iPads, and a whole host of other technology hardware and software products and services. As this has grown, the amount of video content has grown targeting teachers and giving them tips on how to use it.
This year the COVID crisis has highlighted both the need for increased interaction with online resources in any form of education for both teachers and learners. Our own recently launched TOM – Teaching Online Masterclass is a free online professional development resource for teachers making the leap into remote teaching and learning. Teachers, who hold a crucial role within the education eco-system, are being rapidly upskilled in the methodology of teaching both in the classroom and online using a blend of different learning experiences. This is key to creating the community they create in the classroom, in the online space – a definite challenge. If they don’t, they risk being left out in the rain. Their pupils will become alienated and the process will become soggy and tired.
We have learned from my son’s school that at the flick of a switch, his year one teacher can take the classroom experience and re-create it online with individual 1:1 teacher Zoom time factored in for each and every child online too. We now have a timetable for home-learning should the school be closed, and if it’s needed will give him 1:1 teacher Zoom time every two days – something which in its own right is no mean feat.
Teaching and learning are going through an enforced change right now. With little or no notice, thousands of schools up and down the country are having to adapt and change to home-schooling supported by the teacher online. Whilst the last lockdown was pretty much a write-off educationally from the perspective of every fellow parent that I’ve spoken to, there seems to have been a huge technology uptick in our local school since. Systems have been geared up to make sure that everything can be run as if it were in the school, and a questionnaire sent before the term even started has made sure that every child has access to the technology needed in a home-schooling environment, if just via a smartphone.
We are hoping that school stays open, but if not, then this time round, teachers and their pupils have better support. Let us hope it will be a more fun and educational time.
We’re pleased to announce that Teaching Online Masterclass (TOM) a free course for educators to help adapt to online teaching is now available to view at tom.makematic.com
TOM is a free online professional development resource for teachers making the leap into remote teaching and learning. With a focus on pedagogy over technology, it’s a catalogue of bite-sized videos produced in partnership with Adobe, ClickView, iCivics and Participate. TOM contains 50+ professional development videos from K-12 online teaching experts about online pedagogy, designing online classes and curriculum, building communities of practice and digital well-being.
“TOM is a series that has been created with K-12 educators in mind. It focuses on online pedagogy over technology and really takes into account what the research tells us works in this space. The contributors were carefully chosen because of their expertise in the K-12 education space, as practitioners or professionals who really know what it takes to be a super online educator. More than ever educators are crying out for resources such as this, and that’s why it’s such an exciting project to be involved in.” Tara Walsh, Makematic’s Director of Engagement and Innovation, said.
“We work with tens of thousands of incredible teachers who are facing so much uncertainty in their work. That makes it extra important for one thing to remain certain – that teachers are talented professionals who know what effective instruction looks like. With the right guidance, there’s no reason they can’t transfer that effective instruction to online spaces. TOM is that guidance. It meets teachers where they are and provides targeted and convenient coaching to elevate their online practice.” said iCivics’ Chief Education Officer, Emma Humphries.
TOM is now available to watch for free at tom.makematic.com.
TOM is also available at Adobe Education Exchange. Sign up to earn an Adobe digital badge and 4 hours of accredited professional learning.
We’ve got some new educational videos that have been released on the Makematic VOD!
The Basic Principles of Design course focuses on, unsurprisingly, the basics of design. You’ll understand and learn colour, contrast, proportion, balance and more – complete with punchy explainer videos, practitioner interviews and creative ideas for teachers.
Make Impactful Video for Social Media will help you learn and understand the tools you need to produce effective and engaging video content for social media using Adobe Premier Pro.
17DaystoLearn series: These are self-directed challenges that can at primary or secondary level. Students will learn about the SDGs and take on challenges to help further each of the goals.
The students at Kings Hospital School, located in Dublin, completed the #17DaystoLearn challenge as part of their “Get Up and Goals” project. Read here to find out how they approached this challenge and the impact it had on the students.
Untold: Stories You Won’t Learn About In A Textbook
Untold is a free collection of short, compelling, history videos and animations designed to engage new audiences in a new conversation and
- shine a light on the stories that don’t always make it into the classroom
- and question what we think we know about those that do.
Watch the first two Untold episodes here
TLDR; internet access, more and better content and investment in teacher professional development
It seems logical that online education might help widen access to high-quality learning. And right now – as perhaps as many as a billion young people take part in an unplanned global experiment in online learning – that logic is being put to the test.
But it also raises questions about what’s required to make that logic stick.
STEM Learning in Russia
Across a randomised control trial of 325 participants in multiple sites in Russia, the study concluded that there was little difference in learning outcomes between in-person, blended and online-only instruction.
All very promising. But the study made use of a nationwide platform (OpenEdu) that connects Russian Higher Education (HE) students to online resources from top tier universities.
That’s fine for the study, but as the current crisis has made clear, most educators can’t rely on an equivalent solution.
So there are key questions that we need to unpack if we want to apply its findings more widely. First, can everyone take part? Second, do we have the underlying content – and can the right people find it? And finally, do we have the skills to teach online?
Let’s start with access.
Have We Fixed the Digital Divide?
The Russian STEM study assumes that all participants have internet access. A fair assumption for this study.
But just last year estimates based on US Census data suggested that up to 3 million American students (17% of the total) did not have access to the internet at home (excluding cell phone access).
Even in somewhere as well connected as Berkeley, California the rapid transition to online learning caused by Covid-19 has highlighted big issues. A public school superintendent was quoted in Wired magazine estimating that: “about 5 per cent of the district’s students lack reliable internet access at home, and about 30 per cent need devices suitable for online learning”.
And it’s obviously not just a US problem. In 2017, only around 1/3 of Indian’s could access the internet, mostly via their phones. Only 30% of those who could access it were women or girls.
If even a tiny percentage of students can’t take part then we still have work to do. In reality, that percentage isn’t tiny.
Do We Have Enough Quality Content? And Can It Be Found?
In the study, students were randomly assigned to take part in in-person tuition, blended learning or online only course content using the state-sponsored OpenEdu platform. The OpenEdu platform allows students at any higher education institution to access course content provided by some of the country’s top universities.
In many ways OpenEdu is a neatly simple solution. The entirety of the required course content (for the study) is represented. It exists in a single destination. And the content has been produced by the universities themselves.
Most education systems – particularly outside HE/FE – don’t have quite such a straightforward solution to draw on.
There’s certainly a lot of content that has been made available online recently. And, of course, we have a wide variety of platforms like Khan Academy, Udemy, Coursera, Share My Lesson, TPT, Youtube and many others.
So there is no shortage of places to find learning content.
However, the sudden rush of government webpages, list posts and Facebook groups suggest that discoverability, quality control and specificity are big issues.
Of course, not every PDF lesson plan or scanned worksheet translates to a quality online learning experience. Indeed, some subjects may be more difficult to teach and learn, online.
So do we have enough suitable and effective online resources available to meet the need?
And not just for HE students but for every grade from PK-12, and Adult learners, and in multiple languages, and addressing all the various subject areas at each of a myriad of local, state, national and international standards – all of which would need to be updated constantly.
Spoiler alert – the answer is ‘no’.
Do We Know How to Teach Online?
Interestingly the study’s authors found that; “the online course instructors from one of the country’s top engineering schools had better educational backgrounds, more research publications, and more years of teaching experience than the in-person instructors”.
In principle, this reinforces a key argument for online learning – access to the best teaching.
But for this to be a factor we have to assume that the relative expertise/experience of instructors translates into great online learning content. There are lots of reasons that this might not be the case.
Teaching online effectively goes well beyond being able to upload a recorded lecture, work Zoom or upload homework to the school’s LMS.
In a recent article in the Atlantic, veteran teacher Renee Moore puts it superbly:
What Should We Do?
I have four suggestions;
First, we need to keep working towards suitable internet access (and hardware) for all students. Easier said than done, but the case has been made more obvious than ever.
Second, we need to invest in the quality and suitability – and simple volume – of online resources. This will require the collective efforts of academic publishers, commercial organisations, non-profits and the education system itself. It will almost certainly include both paid and freely available (OER) resources. It will also require continued research into what actually works online.
Third, we need to build the pipes that help connect educators with those resources. The right solution won’t seek to replace the tools, platforms and repositories teachers already use but rather build interoperability between them. A highly fragmented market is an impediment to investment. If they can more easily reach educators and students, learning content creators (like us) will invest more.
Finally, we need to invest now in teacher training. Neatly, online learning might form part of the solution.
The current pandemic has made online learning very real, very quickly. And while we have myriad technical solutions to help, we have a lot of work left to do addressing the digital divide, ensuring the availability of appropriate digital resources and supporting teachers as they adopt new ways of teaching.
Now’s the time for us all to invest in making it work.
Since the start of the year, we’ve been working busily in the background on one big problem – how can we make professional learning for teachers more effective? And specifically, how can we help teachers learn tech?
In the coming weeks we’ll be unveiling some of our work on a solution – bitesized professional learning videos for teachers – ahead of formally launching our new subscription platform on October 1st.
For now I thought we’d kickstart the conversation with a look at the challenge itself.
Background: Things Aren’t Working
Back in 2015, the Gate’s Foundation published a report called “Teacher’s Know Best”. It’s definitely worth a read as a primer on the current state of play in teacher PD. From that report, a few things stand out about where we are right now.
First, teacher professional development in the US costs $18B a year. Yes, $18 billion. That’s more than $4,500 for every one of 4M+ teachers.
Second, teachers don’t think it’s working. Just 29 percent are “highly satisfied” with current professional development offerings and only 34 percent think professional development has improved.
And finally, the kicker when it comes to technology in particular:
Large majorities of teachers do not believe that professional development is helping them prepare for the changing nature of their jobs, including using technology and digital learning tools, analyzing student data to differentiate instruction …
In short, professional development is expensive, isn’t serving teachers and isn’t keeping pace with the changing job spec.
There are, of course, plenty of exceptions and examples of schools and 3rd party providers getting this very right. But for the vast majority of teachers in this survey at least, things are very wrong.
But This is Important
It’s not just education that has a professional development challenge. I’d wager that many professionals in law, finance, manufacturing, retail, government and pretty much every other sector might say similar things about poor access to training, particularly in tech.
But education is different.
Educators help prepare our young people for the future; and about the only thing we can say with certainty about that future is that it will increasingly be dominated by technology.
If teachers don’t feel confident using the technology that we have today, how can they adequately prepare our kids for tomorrow’s tech-driven future?
This is an issue for the education system, yes. But it’s also a pretty big deal for industry (who might want to employ those kids), parents (who want their kids to succeed), teachers (who are under increasing pressure to use new technologies) and, of course, the kids themselves.
And it’s not only a problem in the US. Are things really any better in the UK? Asia? South America? India? Africa?
What’s the Problem?
We think there are a few, intertwined, issues that make professional learning particularly challenging:
- It’s Expensive – $18 billion is a lot of money. A good chunk of the cost can be attributed to the way that most professional learning is delivered – in workshops, conferences and inset / in service days. Consider the staff costs of taking teachers out of class, arranging sub cover, workshop facilitators to pay for, travel to conferences etc…. And of course, training is one of the first things to get hit when budgets are tight.
- It’s Time Consuming – Teachers are busy. Finding time to attend training is difficult.
- Technology Moves Too Fast – The pace of change in technology has always outpaced the pace of change in education. This is to be expected, but we can do better.
- Scale – As noted above, there are great examples of teacher PD done well. But how do we scale up these solutions when we’re dealing with millions of teachers spread across countries and continents? To achieve the UN Development Goals in education, we’re going to need another 69 million teachers by 2030 – all of whom will need to be trained.
And what about equality of access? If good tech-focused CPD is something that is expensive and in limited supply, it stands to reason that schools, regions and countries with fewer resources will also be at a disadvantage when it comes to providing adequate training.
A Call to Simple Logic
None of this will be news to anyone in education. And it’s certainly not to say that there aren’t super smart people and organisations tackling this problem head on.
But for all the great work being done to emphasise technology skills for our students; we need to start taking teacher professional learning equally as seriously.
MakeMatic want to have a go at helping.
SxSWedu has become an annual pilgrimage for MakeMatic – a chance to meet exciting innovators from across education, drink beer and eat BBQ.
This year we’ve pitched a session on using bitesized video content for professional development. But there were over 1,400 sessions proposed for the event, so we need your vote. Anyone can vote – even if you’re not planning to attend – so long as you think our session is something worth talking about.
You can vote for us here: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/69880
So what will we be talking about?
Well, the session will feature input from me (Mark) and our CLO / Advisor, Liz Fogel. We’ll be making the case for a new approach to professional learning for teachers – particularly the need for better training around technology – and then getting into the pros / cons of video as (part of) the solution.
If you’ve got any questions or ideas we should include in our talk, please feel free to reach out.