Motivation is an important component in learning – more so in self-paced learning initiatives. In classrooms, a lot of it can be created on-the-go by the instructor. The moment that the instructor spots the learners’ attention wavering, he or she changes the pace of the lesson, introduces activities or even makes the learners sit up with a surprise pop-quiz!
However, in technology-aided learning, motivation plays even a stronger role. The e-learning effort is self-led and depends completely on the interest of the learner. So, e-learning developers, instructional designers and even subject matter experts are often pondering over the ways to keep learners motivated within the learning environment. A strategic way of creating a suitable ‘push’ for learning is adopting the endowed progress effect.
The term is actually derived from phenomena in the marketing world. Simply put, endowed progress is when people feel they have made some progress towards a goal; they become more committed towards continued effort towards achieving the goal. In other words, when efforts towards achieving a goal are recognized, then the goal becomes more attainable. So, the appearance of progress can have a strong effect on achievement of a goal while progress that is not recognized can be demotivating.
A popular research paper by Nunes, J. & Dreze, X. (2006) titled ‘The Endowed Progress Effect: How Artificial Advancement Increases Effort’ cites the example of a car wash scheme. The car wash scheme is straight forward: the consumer has to buy eight car washes to get the ninth free. Two variants of a customer card are made – one with ten slots and the other with eight. The ten slot card announces that the first two slots are pre-filled and are ‘complementary’ along with the customers’ membership. The customer needs to fill the next eight slots to attain the goal of a free car wash. The eight slot card does not have any extra ‘push’ – it just tells the customer to buy eight to get the ninth one free. Following research shows that customers who got the ten slot card come to the facility much more as compared to the customers who got the eight slot card. Also, closer to the eighth wash, the visits are even closer – revealing that efforts are further increased when the goal is closer in sight.
The theory of endowed progress can be similarly utilized in learning as well. For corporate learners, implementing the theory makes sense as recognition of progress is a great motivator for mature learners. Here are some ways that the theory of endowed progress can be utilized to motivate or even manipulate learners to complete trainings and learn effectively.
For implementing the theory of endowed progress, a good place to start is right at the beginning of the training. Giving out freebies or recognizing the quest to learn even as a learner registers on to the course can be a push for learning. So, even if the learner gets a virtual ‘ribbon’ as he signs on to new course, it is perceived as the first step towards the certificate at the end of the course. Or as the learner browses through the course catalogue, for each chosen course, he or she is given a coupon. The coupon can further be exchanged for actual ‘prizes’ at the end of each course that he or she completes. So, though the learner chooses the courses, the push for learning comes in the form of a ‘coupon’ which is a constant reminder that the course has been chosen, but not completed. Once it is completed, it can be exchanged for a ‘medal’ – the final goal and proof of learning.
Activities are proven way to garner interest and create motivation for learning. With the endowed progress, the initial activities can be created in the simplest manner that even new learners can successfully complete them. This gives the learner a sense of achievement at the very beginning. As the course progresses, the activities can increase in difficulty level. But as the goal comes nearer, the effort given towards successfully completing activities is also greater. So, this creates a perfect balance where on one hand, the activity encourages learners to apply more and on the other, the learner is suitably driven to put in more efforts now that he is so much closer to the end goal. The path is built through consecutive successes, so even if the activities get tougher the learner is never demotivated.
Game based learning can also built using the endowed progress effect in many ways. The learner may start off with complementary points which build up to the final kitty in a scoring game. Though the complementary points do not amount to a lot, it gives the learner the feeling of not starting with a ‘zero’ or a completely empty score-board. Another way of building endowed progress is creating avatars which ‘grow’ or mature as the learner progresses through the course. The progress of the avatar is closely linked to the learners’ successes and thus it suitably ‘endows’ or builds it up.
Endowed progress effect works best if you are seeking to keep somebody committed to a longer term goal. e-learning is a continuous process in the corporate world and if we show or reaffirm learner progress, it makes first steps very easy for them. And with the first step taken, the entire learning initiative stands to be more effective, more successful.
References and suggested further reading: http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/endowed_progress.htm
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