How To Use Feelings To Encourage College students To Full A Course
Results-oriented student motivation
When we started 3D graphics courses four years ago, the result of the first lesson looked like this:
The students were introduced to the 3D theory and the interface and they were offered the opportunity to create a simple figure on their own. We explained elementary things and had no idea what could be done differently. Then we were faced with the fact that at the earliest stage the students began to drop out of studies. We started to analyze the problem and look for the cause. And as a result, we intuitively felt in which direction we should move.
The result of our first 3D graphics lesson now looks like this:
It is a scene from the cartoon Monsters Inc. The students do not listen to theory in the first lesson, but do something interesting and see the results. The trick is to have all of the elements ready in advance so that students only need to change the scale of the figures, rotate and place them correctly.
This approach has significantly reduced the drop-out rate. The duration of our course is two years and has a completion rate of 80%. At the same time, the principles discussed not only work in IT, but also in all other areas and are suitable for any type of education, from preschool to business.
What keeps students’ attention during a course? Not the information they are given, and not even the authority of a teacher. Emotions play a big role in engagement. And if you make this available, you will accompany the students through to the end. The fact is that a person goes through various emotional states during exercise. With the help of special techniques you can manage these and thereby influence engagement and completion rates.
Based on existing learning theories (SSDL model, TRIZ pedagogy, Robert Gagnes “Learning Conditions” and others) and our experiences, we have identified a universal scheme of 5 emotional states that students go through:
- The training begins with the state “I can do it”
At the very beginning it is crucial not to scare students off with a complex theory, but rather to give them a “charge” of motivation and interest to show them that they can get results.
- “I understand” state
With motivation to prepare the ground, it is only possible here to convey the basics of the discipline to be studied, to immerse the students in the theory of how it all works and why it is so.
- “I’m experimenting” state
The students already have a minimum level of knowledge that they can apply in practice in this state. Many course makers make a catastrophic mistake here: They leave the students no space for experiments. Have students try to make mistakes and use the knowledge they have acquired in different ways. In programming classes, give students all the tools they need and offer to write an alarm clock program. At the same time, they have to think up functionality, architecture and optics themselves. In cooking classes, provide a range of ingredients and instruct students to prepare their own dishes. The manifestation of one’s will is an important part of engaged learning.
- “I do for myself” state
The students have a fairly deep understanding of the topics and can use their knowledge and skills to solve their tasks. Create a tool for personal use (the same alarm clock).
- The last stage of the training is “I do for others”
If in the previous phase the goal was to influence oneself (the inside). Now let’s talk about influencing others (from the outside). Students can apply new knowledge and skills to change the world around them and make a difference (e.g. in professional activities). This is the goal of any workout and the final point the course should come to.
These states are universal and applicable to absolutely any course. Depending on the purpose and content, states can change (e.g. “I benefit” instead of “I do for myself”). Nevertheless, the principle remains unchanged from the student’s point of view: “First I understand why I need this course, then I grasp the basics, experiment with new knowledge, apply it to solve personal problems and finally influence the world around me.”
3 main reasons for low student engagement
Based on the concept of emotional states, there are 3 reasons to struggle with engagement:
- States change too quickly
In such a case, the students do not have time to grasp a condition. Unfortunately, it is impossible to give general recommendations on the duration of the individual training phases. So we recommend experimenting and asking students for feedback. If you do this regularly and on time, timing issues will quickly become apparent.
- States change too slowly
When the students are ready to continue (for example into the experimental phase) and a theory is explained to them, it becomes bored.
- Wrong status selection
In the vast majority of courses, the “I understand” state is at the forefront right at the beginning, an explanation of the basic principles. However, students cannot effectively absorb the information because they do not understand why they need this knowledge.
We firmly believe that the most important state is “I can do this”. When you create a good “bait” in the first few lessons, you create a motivational base enough that it can last until the end of a course. And vice versa: If you have an excellent course in everything else, but the beginning is not noticeable and does not trigger an “I can do it” feeling, then it is unlikely that you will achieve a long-term commitment.
So we will look at this state in detail.
“Fast results” as a captivating technique
Course creators have to give up the notion that a student is already interested in a course after the first lesson and if a person drops out soon after it starts, it means the course just doesn’t suit them. That’s not how it works. When a student enters the first lesson, you still have to fight for their attention and interest. Your job is to “sell” them the entire course. And this can be achieved most effectively if one shows a practical result at the beginning that motivates the students to delve deeper into a topic.
To do this, you can use 2 methods:
1. From top to bottom
It’s the most effective way. Try to apply it first. The essence of this method is that in the first lesson we give an almost completed task. Students have to do a minimal amount of work and get finished, professional-looking results. We don’t force a student to delve deep into the basics. Instead, a student focuses on small steps at the beginning. And then you reduce the scope of task fulfillment.
Here is a good example from cooking: Give students ready-made cakes, cream, and decorations in the first lesson and tell them to make a whole cake out of them. The same for the next lesson, only the students are already preparing the cream on their own. Then they bake cakes. And finally, you get to the stage where the students make everything themselves from raw materials.
However, this approach is not possible in all degree programs. In this case, you need to use the second method.
2. From the bottom up
Sometimes in learning you can only move from the particular to the general, from less to more. For example, in a beginner programming course, you can’t give a person a prepackaged code and expect them to understand it right away. If so, for the first lesson, develop a series of small, interesting, and close-up assignments that students complete and feel satisfied right away.
For example, a standard exercise in the early stages of HTML is creating a rainbow on the page and signing each color. It is very boring. We give the students the task of putting a frame from their favorite movie on the page and adding a caption, a clue, so the rest of the group members can guess the picture. The theoretical basics are the same as for the rainbow exercise, but this type of task is much more interesting for the students.
Checklist: 5 Student Engagement Techniques That Are Worth Taking Notes
- Quick result
Give students short, simple, relevant assignments with a clear result.
Partly finished material is made available to complete a task. Students just fill it out.
- Close to students
Use a context that the students are familiar with. It can be pop culture, and when we talk about business education, it can be the business environment. The main thing is that it is close and understandable for the students.
A trainer shows how to perform a task, and students acting on an algorithm complete that task or perform some other similar task.
- Demonstration of the results
Before each lesson, students should understand what they will be spending their time on, the benefits they will get from the class, and what they will learn.
When developing a new exercise program or correcting an existing exercise program, keep the importance of emotions in mind. Don’t overload students with theory right from the start. Use engagement methods and take good courses that students will take to the end.