Monday, March 3, 2014

Nudging Students to Success

I like to think about the work of Thaler and Sunstein (Nudges: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness), and about putting their ideas to work in learning design. 

For those of you who follow my research meanderings, you know I've been talking about Nudge Analytics, mobile nudges, and even more mobile nudges for awhile now. I'm excited about the evidence that Persistence Plus and University of Washington Tacoma have been able to gather related to mobile, whole-learner support in course performance and behaviors. (In our latest look at online math classes, 20% of PP participants made use of UWT tutoring center services while only 4% of the non-participants did. That's a huge behavioral difference, no? We nudged them to get help if they felt they were struggling. All you have to do is ask and advise.)  

So, it got me thinking...why aren't instructors doing the same with course tools available to us in the LMS? Ok, now available to some of us in some LMS. Next-gen LMS like Canvas that has amazing data tools under that pretty engine. I'm going to be presenting on this topic a number of times this Spring as I collect ideas and innovative practice for nudging, so I started the conversation at UW Bothell last week at a workshop/conversation there. I'll keep sharing, refining, asking questions in the upcoming months and I'm asking here. 

How can we use the tools in Canvas to nudge, remind, encourage, personalize, prompt, and support students - especially busy, working, distracted, stressed students - to better results? I note that I add the "especially" because this is the population going to college - the new traditional - that is seeing their safety net eroding daily. This is the population that can't afford rising tuition or increased debt. This is the population that struggles with jobs, kids, and an education system that ignores learning diversity, age, experience, preferences and needs. We are an instructor-centric, hegemonic blob that is allowing our vain desire and ravenous need to be Harvard (or UW Seattle) to blind us to the needs of our students. We're not Seattle; they're not elite, privileged, protected. 

I was reminded of the difference when I was at the mothership -UW Seattle - giving a talk on mobile nudge results. I received some strong push back regarding "pampering" and how it's not the instructor's job to "nurture" students. I was told that students "not mature enough" might not belong in college. Wait, what? A 30-some year old mother of three, juggling full-time work, student loans and parenting isn't mature enough? I think the mothership is ready to take off for Exclusivity Island. And that's ok, but there's a whole planet of learners that see a college degree as more and more necessary and they're looking to places like UWT and the state of Washington community colleges (ALL on Canvas) to help them get to their goals. We're not doing well at that and I'd like to talk about how we could do better by nudging, supporting, sharing and caring them to graduation.