‘Motrain-Moot’: What Designing For Motivation Can Do To Achieve Higher Outcomes From Your eLearning Conference

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If you’re in charge of elearning events, or just elearning, Motrain’s Jeff Campbell has a quick and to-the-point word of advice for you. Forget gamification. If you really want to get results out of participants, replace the word with “Motivation Design.”

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Frictions in virtual elearning

So you’ve managed to convince an audience to check out your amazing conference. Laudable effort, to be sure. But when it comes to getting “something” out of them, this is only the beginning.

Technologies, coupled with our newfound lifestyles, have made it very easy for people to sign up for conferences. Even before, we already had the phenomenon of “the conference junkie” who signs up for anything that may come regardless of their actual interest.

There are of course ways to “nudge” or filter people out of the intended target. But the point is larger. Once we have a more ideal group of attendees, it is simply not wise to rely on their motivation. Attention is, after all, a limited and highly sought after resource, disputed by everyone in the virtual world. From your competitors all the way up to the likes of Facebook, Netflix and YouTube.

So don’t assume that just because they didn’t attend most (or any) of your sessions, it was not something they were actually interested in. Consider some possibilities:

  • They forgot. It feels almost insulting, doesn’t it? But it can be as simple as that. And there’s a quick fix that doesn’t involve your feelings. Don’t let them forget about your value.
  • It was too cheap (or free) for them to care about. You might think it does not matter whether or not they sat through your event. They paid, so it’s their loss, right? Not at all! Think about the most memorable moments in your life. Were they the most expensive? There are ways to get creative with revenue models —we’ll touch upon those—, but when it comes to sustainability, one fact matters: You should focus more on their return than on your gain.
  • To wrap it all up: The key of education is insisting in the long term returns of their efforts. (And of course, delivering on them.) You cannot guarantee every step of the process will be enjoyable. And when things get hard or boring, people then to question why they are doing something in the first place. The solution? Be insistent, be consistent, and never stop pointing to a higher end.

The Game Motivational Design Plan

The MountainMoot, held every summer in Helena, Montana, surely looks quirky and definitely out of line with all the MoodleMoots and other elearning conferences in the annual calendar. It’s also consistently the most engaging and memorable for their participants. Admittedly, making it to Helena for the “Moot” is not for everyone. Or it wasn’t until now.

For the 2020 edition, the challenge was: How to maintain the spirit of the conference, that of playfulness, competitive camaraderie and the long-term value of the social network, this time on the virtual playground?

It was smart to begin by defying some assumptions:

  • A “theme,” or overarching narrative, can be optional or an afterthought.
  • If people care about a topic or cause, there’s no need for reward or social visibility of their accomplishment.
  • Extrinsic rewards cannot draw the “good” out of people.

As it turns out, being free from conventional wisdom can open up opportunities in the way to design a virtual event. We can, for example, focus on what is desirable for a real —not ideal— participant. Take a look at the following User Desire-Obstacle Model:

The user wishes toBut they run intoWith MotrainMoot they will
Join the eventlimited budgetsparticipate in activities to realize if the event is worth their time and money
Make the most of every sessionlack of focushave various (potentially unlimited) reinforcements of the session watched
Get a superior grasp of the concepts discussedlimited attentionapply concepts through practical LMS activities that highlight the value of the technology
Develop an enhanced practice based on their event learningsunreliable motivationenjoy renewed rewards designed to stay relevant and stave off “reward fatigue”
Become a better educator in order to help othersfeelings of isolationfind social rewards that act primarily as “little nudges” to go and help others
Be the best, break their own recordfeeling of envy or greedrealize earning opportunities are designed to reward helpfulness and social interaction. Earning “points”* sends the publics message that the participant is helpful and collaborative
Excel as an engaged participant of a worthwhile eventsense of purposelessnessfind an experienced tied to an overarching narrative about a collective goal that is urgent, impactful and relevant.
*With Motrain you can name your currency this any way you want.

Where the (Motrain) magic comes in

Let’s consider a basic event planning process. As you might have guess by now, these approach can be extended beyond elearning events, well into elearning experiences themselves.

  • Determine ideal participant (behavioral) outcomes. See the table above as reference.
  • Establish the main event actions: Feel free to adopt a marketer’s point of view to map the journey, from awareness to purchase, but then extend it towards achievement.
  • Build the prize catalog
  • Create the rewards system. Estimate the activities, time and effort required to earn them
  • Assign the earnings to the activity completions
  • Develop schedules, for special or time-limited earning opportunities
  • Kick things off!

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