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Motivation – Mozilla Badges

March 29, 2013

The open learning concept embodied in MOOC has many attractive features but also faces some great (maybe insurmountable) hurdles.

One such hurdle that does not yet appear to be directly addressed is motivation; the kind of motivation that will keep students in a learning mode over a period of time . . . maybe years.

My experience as an old OU graduate and having completed several correspondence courses before that, taught me the importance of maintaining momentum over a prolonged period of time against the pressure of time allocation and family demands . . . we start our educational journey fresh and with much enthusiasm but this wears off as time goes by and realism sets in.

It seems that we need both “carrot and stick” . . . encouraging pats on the back and spurs in the backside or a pat on the back that is administered hard, low down and often. This requires constant vigilance by a respected pedagogue. Learning for its own sake is insufficient for most of us.

One MOOC approach is the encouragement a spirit of camaraderie – peer group pressure if you like or ‘we’re all in the soup together’, but time will be measure of the success of this strategy – (P.S. Some of us now have to learn the art of social networking – the dark secrets of blog or tweet technology.)

Those of us who have been involved in the teaching of the 11 to 16 age group in the State system know from bitter experience the difficulty of motivation.

“Nothing succeeds like success” is a motivational axiom, like the Pavlovian Dog concept (Classical Conditioning) and so an approach is offered using Mozilla Badges (we used gold star stickers for little kids in my day). To be successful the badges will have achieve (and demonstrate) success – students will demand a level of intrinsic value that can readily be perceived by educational institutes and employers alike, and this, in turn, will require some external validating authority.

One of my granddaughters is busy right now revising for an exam – third year medical studies. Most people will feel more confident in her medical skills when she has gained her MD rather than having a collection of Mozilla badges.

The question of accreditation remains – neither peer group acceptance, or blog approval, or community consensus is enough – society will demand more.


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