A badge designer’s self-reflection on earning his first badge
As the Online Learning Digital Media Specialist for Concordia University Wisconsin, I have used my graphic design and web developer background to implement badging solutions for our Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). After Learning Beyond Letter Grades launched, I quickly realized that I had never actually earned a digital badge. What better way to start earning badges than by earning the “Using Digital Badges to Document Learning” badge?
We have so many educational opportunities available to us. This in mind, the issue, as I see it, isn’t of the availability of education (at least not in our internet-rich society), the issue we face is motivation. Not just motivation in the classroom, rather the motivation to seek out and commit to a learning environment or Personal Learning Network. The problem education faces, as I see it, is both awareness of and motivation to engage in learning environments.
This is why I view marketing as an educational tool.
The concept of Gamification and how it applies to online learning environments has been the subject of many conversations and self reflections that I’ve conducted recently. The following is a summary of my views on motivational theory in terms of online learning.
Know your Game Type
In my last post, I self reflected on a theory in Gamification that suggests that most if not every individual has a certain “game type” that they most strongly associate with: Achiever, Explorer, Socializer or Killer. After taking a Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology quiz, I found that I was most closely associated with the Socializer game type. This proved extremely useful to me as a learner and explained why I struggled with self-paced online courses and non-collaborative courses.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how marketers need to be self-aware consumers before they’ll ever be extraordinary on their field. Taking the time to not only take this quiz but self-reflect holds the same truth: To be an extraordinary teacher, you must first be a self-aware learner.
Many motivation theories focus on the amount of motivation, with a larger quantity said to result in improved outcomes. However, as educators we should not focus on generating more motivation from our learners but instead focus on creating conditions that facilitate the internalization of motivation from within our learners.Matthew Guyan, 2013
After reading a great article by Matthew Guyan entitled 15 Tips To Improve Learners’ Motivation for eLearning Courses, I came across the idea of Self-Determination Theory (SDT). Guyan cited Edward Deci and Richard Ryan to discovering an empirical theory of motivation, Self-determination Theory that focuses”the degree in which behavior that is self-motivated and self-determined. The research ended up highlighting three basic needs:
- Autonomy (a sense of being in control and freedom)
- Competence (a sense of being able to do something i.e. being competent)
- Relatedness (a sense of being associated or connected to others)
Matthew Guyan, 2013
I suggest reading the rest of Guyan’s article as he provides elaboration and tips regarding the research he found as they relate to the three needs. Reading through them proved as an aid for me in understanding SDT. I conducted the following self-reflection as I read through Guyan’s tips.
Exploring Motivation in Online Learning.
- Delinearize courses by differentiating learning
- Provide options to explore different content areas or explore them in different ways.
- Emphasize their control over time while setting goals to finish.
- Consider using discussions or competitions to promote peeragogy.
- Maintain a culture of communication between leader and learner to navigate their possible options.
- Consider letting the students decide how they are graded.
- Achievers need autonomy to be able to earn something another student hasn’t.
- Explorers need autonomy to be able to go beyond and learn something others haven’t thought of exploring.
- Socializers need autonomy to be able to choose to learn from others and not just impersonal resources.
- Killers need autonomy to be able to choose options competitively and in ways that show their dominance to be motivated to learn.
- Focus on Project-Based Learning that proves their knowledge is applicable to real world needs.
- Reward learners for opting-in to harder learning activities.
- Ensure the course expectations are clear, fair and that assessments reflect actual learning.
- Give them a reason to login frequently.
- Make sure assessment tools actually measure comprehension of the subject.
- Achievers need competence in order to feel that their accomplishments mean something and are actual accolades to their accomplishments.
- Explorers need competence in order to feel challenged or feel like they are absorbing the newly sought after knowledge that might not come from anywhere else.
- Socializers need to connect their learning to the real world. It needs to be content they’ll want to share with others that aren’t currently taking the course.
- Killers need to know on what grounds they can make claims to their greatness. If their curriculum isn’t the best, their peers outside their immediate learning environment may look down on them.
- Ensure that there effective are avenues of communication between learners.
- Make sure the learner can easily check back in on discussions often.
- Consider utilizing a tool that is accessible on mobile devices and supports push notifications. This way the discussion happens more synchronously and the user doesn’t need to waste time to check in on a desktop computer on a site that’s behind a password wall.
- Make sure there are options for collaboration.
- For self-paced courses, consider having a community area that’s accessible by everyone who’s currently taking the course. Also consider ways to improve communication between leader and learner.
- Achievers need relatedness in order to compare themselves and their accomplishments against the accomplishments of others, or at least know that their accolades are better than average.
- Explorers need relatedness in order to gleam unique perspectives and knowledge from experts and their peers whole also being the ones who formulate new theories and populate group wikis and forums with knowledge.
- Socializers need relatedness in order to have opportunities to share their information with others and by sharing it, processes it and learn it themselves. Their motivation centers around relating to others and sharing what they know.
- Killers need to be able to relate with others in order to have the opportunity to prove themselves better. They need environments that allow competition and the ability to prove others wrong (or at least, their thinking as better).
Guyan, M. (2013, September 05). Retrieved from http://elearningindustry.com/15-tips-to-improve-learners-motivation-for-elearning-courses
References used by Guyan
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
Przybylski, A. K., Rigby, C. S. & Ryan, R. M. (2010) A motivational model of video game engagement. Review of General Psychology. 14 (2), 154-166.
I want to make it clear that these points are just my thoughts on the cited authors’ work on motivation. I don’t have any research to support that certain gamer types are driven by these researched aspects of Self-Determination Theory. I would like to thank Matthew Guyan for his 15 tips as I used them to gleam a better picture as to what the researchers found. If there’s anyone who knows of research that may back up or challenge the suggestions I made, feel free to post them in the comments.
To be an extraordinary teacher, you must first be a self-aware learner.— Tyler Shadick (@TylerShadick) September 14, 2013
I’ve heard it said that how you behave as a gamer reflects how you’re motivated as a learner. This being said, I recently decided to take the “Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology” to see which combination of gamer profiles best reflects me. Building onto the basis of “Players Who Suit MUD’s” by Richard A. Bartle, one’s “Battle Quotient” seeks to classify the individual by four main profiles: Achiever, Explorer, Socializer and Killer. Bartle used playing card suites to make these profiles easier to differentiate.
The achiever wants to gather as many measurements of success, like experience points or trophies. Achievers were the “diamond” suit reflecting their love of treasure.
The explorer aims to look around and take discover as much as they can and are especially motivated to find the hidden elements within the game that others may not care to find. Explorers were the “spade” suite reflecting their desire to dig up knowledge.
The socializer plays a game because of the people, not the game. They focus on the connections they can form. Socializers were the “heart” suit given their focus on connecting with others.
The killer plays the game for the sake of dominating the other players. They want to be the best by means of showing everyone else up in competition with other players. Killers are the “club” suit reflecting their desire to hit others.
Applying a Battle Quotient to Learning
I heard of Gamer Psychology as a potential tool for examining student motivation before I looked into its actual roots in multiplayer games and Bartle’s research. Dr. Bernard Bull introduced me to this concept as our team worked together to develop a new Massively Open Online Course that sought to challenge how education approaches assessment: Learning Beyond Letter Grades. Here’s the framework of Battle Quotients before I examined the roots of Bartle’s research.
The achiever was who we focused on during our first MOOC (Understanding Cheating in Online Courses) because it was primarily badge driven. Achievers would seek to collect all the badges as treasure. In a way, those who collect degrees and certifications to hang on a wall, in my opinion, are in this category. I believe a student’s Battle Quotient determines what best motivates them as a learner.
The explorer will not only take a course but sift it for all the information they can find, especially the information that others failed to locate. In first MOOC (Understanding Cheating in Online Courses), the explorer entered the course, absorbed the information and left with little regard to the live events or verifying their work for the badge. The explorer is motivated by uncovering as much knowledge as they can.
The socializer wants to make connections. They rather intact with the people, not the content. In our first MOOC (Understanding Cheating in Online Courses) we hoped use live events and Twitter to stir conversation. Next go around, we’re looking to have discussion boards and more community centered conversations to drive the socializer’s interest. Relationships and social status motivate the socializer.
The killer student wants to be the best, be right and outperform the other students. We’re thinking to add leaderboards in our next MOOC to fuel the killer student’s need for competition. Other things a killer student would look for is debates and other competition-centered learning experiences. Killers are motivated by outpreforming other students (and sometimes even the leaders).
My “Battle Quotient”: Socializer
I decided to take my Bartle Gamer Psychology on the Gamer DNA website. After answering a series of thirty questions I was given my Battle Quotient. The results had me evenly spread, surprisingly: 67% Socializer, 53% Explorer, 47% Achiever, 33% Killer. Nonetheless, my Battle Quotient labeled me a socializer.
But Really, Socializer?
My Battle Quotient actually caught me by surprise. Normally I’m one to avoid the Massively Open Online Gaming, especially the role playing type. I’m also a textbook introvert (given social environments are taxing for me emotionally).
But the more I thought about the more it seemed like a good fit. I tend to only play games with friends: I rarely play by myself except for a select few titles that I play primarily for storyline, but even then I always share that storyline with others. I’m very sensitive to what other people think of my actions, online or off, making some events with social components tiring for me. Nonetheless, I can see that social interaction is one of the primary motivators in my life as illustrated by my Battle Quotient.
I am a Social Learner.
Applied to myself, the socializer paradigm of learning aligns itself with a few of my “quirks.” Further insight can be gained by applying these quirks to the paradigm I had before the reflection.
- I externally process my information.
- The information I share with others isn’t usually my “final thoughts” on the subject. I deliberately seek out people who will criticize my ideas as I explain them so to better understand what I’m grappling with.
- Because I externally process my information, I publish my ideas (i.e. this blog post) and hope for someone to challenge/correct me rather that just reaffirm what I’m saying.
- Textbooks do me little good. I’d rather sit with an expert or contemporary. In fact, I find I retain conversations better than textbook information.
- I need to share my successes and failures.
- What I didn’t realize until after I learned my Battle Quotient is that I am motivated by social engagement and status. Being told I’ve done a good job or being reaffirmed, critiqued and encouraged in my failures is what drives me forward.
- I’m motivated to impress. Mediocre for me is nothing to brag about unless I seriously buy into it being the best option available. Competition itself doesn’t drive me: earning respect does, even if it’s from other competitors.
I am a Socializer Explorer (SE).
Given that my Battle Quotient is also near the Explorer profile, I also exhibit traits of an Explorer.
- Driven to Research, Consult.
- Certain topics can motivate me to dive into a mode of research to better understand the topic as a whole.
- I then share this information with people who I think can benefit.
- I’m a planner. Mostly.
- I come up with a plan of action, look into all possible options, consult friends and execute my plan.
- Plans are, however, not concrete. Spontaneity and a degree of flexibility is needed.
Consider taking the quiz for yourself. Does your Battle Quotient reflect who you are? Do you think my analysis of my Battle Quotient is accurate? Let me know in the comments below.
A mission statement is just text on a page unless it's evident in every detail of daily operations.— Tyler Shadick (@TylerShadick) September 10, 2013
The Brand-Named Generic
When I attended a design institute, I considered the image and aesthetic of a brand to be the core attractor for a company. I applauded the high-end design firms and snubbed my nose at the Great Values and Roundy’s of the world for their lack of creativity and ability to stand out.
Although, it was those generic brands I tended to buy the most.
It’s no mistake that Great Value and Roundy’s use such simple design and limited amount of color in their products. They may be generic but it’d say it’s a mistake to think they have weak brand equity.
The Self-Aware Consumer
Brands develop their marketing mix intentionally around how they predict their audience will behave. This being said: to be a good marketer, you must be a self-aware consumer.
Bland colors and less than exemplary design communicate a message of value: when I’m budget sensitive, these stand out quickly against the brighter, “stronger” brands. Given that I find myself skeptical of the “non-brand generics,” there’s a level of uncertainty avoidance these generics still provide me.
I’d like to think this is a general rule for the generic industry: a cheaper looking but still recognizable brand is a quick way to position yourself as less expensive than your competitors.
Your marketing mix says a lot about your product to people who have never experienced your product before. Brand design research has infinitely deeper levels of complexity and statistics you may consider looking into.
But brand design alone won’t get you very far in the eyes of the consumer.
Hi my name is:
Who you think you are is not nearly as important to who your audience thinks you are.
Positioning is not a static chart that hangs next to your value statement. It shifts as your audience interacts with your product/service compared to your competition. But positioning also shifts as they move through your conversion funnel. When they unwrap the packaging. When they receive a follow up email. When they contact your customer service representatives.
Customers want an internally consistent marketing mix more than they want a flashy brand or amazing product.
Consider Great Value and Roundy’s. They’re great brands not only because are they consistently cheap, but they have a consistent quality are generally branded the same. Their message is “cheap, but quality food.” Apple is consistent with its message of “highest quality, artisan technology” and their flare for being arbiters of style and user interface design. If you’ve experienced marketing, packaging, software, hardware and technical support (yes, they’re even consistent in “our way is the right way” in how they approach Genius Bars), you know what I’m talking about. Regarding Apple, there are rumors that they plan on producing a economy version of the iPhone 5. Does a cheap product match with their brand message? For actionable strategies developing this internally consistent marketing mix, I recommend reading Customers Remember Experiences, Not Your Brand by Martin Zwilling.
Don’t be Apple, Google, or Starbucks.
If you want to rule your industry, you have to be consistent. Be self aware of your brand by taking an objective step back. Consider doing a walk-through of how your audience experiences your product or service and be sure it lines up with your value proposition and mission statement. Make an actionable plan and measure your growth.
Don’t be pressured to be trend setters like Apple, Google or Starbucks. If your brand image isn’t artistic and trendy, forcing it to be will only confuse your market (Although Mike Elgan’s article How To Rule your Industry: Be Apple, Google or Starbucks (or be like them) can explain how their consistency as the core of their success). Sometimes you can learn from, or even model after, less trendy brands like Roundy’s or Great Value that focus on a consistent, positive experience.