Motivation is central to all things human. Online teaching and learning are no different. In the early years of the Web, however, students endured extremely dry online content, affectionately known as “shovelware.” Over time, learners were increasingly inundated by bland content and unimaginative activities. Worse, too often they accepted it as reality. In the process, online learning became woefully lockstep and mechanized. There was no room for flexibility, choice, or creative expression of any kind.
Unfortunately, most online content remains lifeless today. Legions of learners are interminably bored. Part of the reason is that their online and blended courses fail to effectively utilize the smartphones, tablets, and other wireless and mobile technologies strapped to their bodies or tucked into in their tote bags. At this very moment, tens of millions of learners around the planet are navigating through seemingly endless pages of their online courses. Unfortunately, most of these learners are swimming in this sea of content without much hope for interaction, collaboration, or engagement. The emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs), where learners in a single course can number in the hundreds of thousands, has made the present situation even more precarious and a remedy more urgent.
We propose the TEC-VARIETY framework as a solution to the lack of meaningful engagement. It can shift learners from nearly comatose states to actively engaged ones. Adding Some TEC-VARIETY helps instructors focus on how to motivate online learners and increase learner retention. It also is a comprehensive, one-stop toolkit for online instructors to inspire learners and renew their own passion for teaching. Using 10 theoretically driven and proven motivational principles, TEC-VARIETY offers over 100 practical yet innovative ideas based on decades of author experience teaching in a variety of educational settings.
1. Tone/Climate: Psychological Safety, Comfort, Sense of Belonging
2. Encouragement: Feedback, Responsiveness, Praise, Supports
3. Curiosity: Surprise, Intrigue, Unknowns
4. Variety: Novelty, Fun, Fantasy
5. Autonomy: Choice, Control, Flexibility, Opportunities
6. Relevance: Meaningful, Authentic, Interesting
7. Interactivity: Collaborative, Team-Based, Community
8. Engagement: Effort, Involvement, Investment
9. Tension: Challenge, Dissonance, Controversy
10. Yielding Products: Goal Driven, Purposeful Vision, Ownership