March 11, 2015
Exploring Ways to Boost Motivation in Online Learners at SxSWedu

At the Raikes Foundation we believe that helping students develop learning mindsets—including growth mindset, such as the belief that intelligence grows with effort —is a powerful way to increase motivation and encourage students to embrace educational challenges that will help them improve. But does it work in online learning?

That was the topic of Motivation and Virtual Learning, a panel that I had the pleasure of moderating Tuesday at SxSWedu.  Joining me on the panel were Carissa Romero of Stanford PERTS, Benjamin Haley of Khan Academy and Philipp Schmidt of MIT Media Lab. 

We had a few key goals for the session. First, we wanted to showcase groundbreaking work that Stanford PERTS and Khan Academy have conducted that reveals the promise of motivational strategies as a mechanism for improving completion and other key virtual learning outcomes. The brief interventions developed by PERTS and Khan Academy, intended to boost mindsets and other non-cognitive factors, can be rapidly prototyped, studied and refined for placement in virtual learning environments.

We also wanted to surface longer-term questions posed by MIT Media Lab about how learning environments—both digital and traditional—can craft broader notions of motivation for learning and inform a research and partnership agenda to increase motivation in a variety of educational settings.

With these goals in mind the panelists touched on a number of themes, including the demonstrated efficacy of mindset messages in virtual contexts, the importance of digital tools for reaching large numbers of learners, the share-ability of digital resources—such as a new mindset kit that Stanford PERTS is building -- and the use of digital environments to rapidly prototype and refine approaches for increasing student motivation.

At the same time, all of the speakers reinforced the importance of understanding how to increase motivation across learning environments, including in classrooms, and seeing digital platforms as complementary to other learning approaches.

The panel concluded with a vision for how virtual environments can motivate large numbers of learners, serve as an ongoing test-bed for motivational approaches, and become more seamlessly integrated in a learning ecology that includes classroom teaching and more interest-driven learning.

We received a lot of great questions both during and after the session, and all of us on the panel are excited to continue the conversation.  If you have questions please track us down at SxSWedu or follow us on Twitter at @RaikesFdn, @PERTSlab, @khanacademy and @Medialab.