Do you give your learners options?

​How much autonomy do you give your learners? Autonomy is one of the three components of the Self-Determination Theory created by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan which suggests that certain things are needed to promote intrinsic motivation. The other two components are competence and relatedness, and we will talk about those on other days.

Autonomy means giving the learner freedom, letting them have some control, and letting them make choices. In my experience this is one of the easiest, yet often overlooked gameful elements. Ask yourself, can I provide alternative tasks for the learner to choose from or alternative ways for them to complete the tasks? Can you let them decide how deeply they want to go into different topics? Or can they choose what order to complete activities in? These are just a few ways you can promote autonomy.

Now how much autonomy you give them can be related to their experience level with the topic or the learning method. For instance, those just starting with online learning may need a more directed approach, at least initially. As they get more comfortable with the process of learning online, you may then decide to give them more freedom.

But it's not just me suggesting this. One of the coolest new pieces of research I have encountered recently came from a study by Janine Lin who found that in self-directed courses, the people who did at least one activity out of the suggested order provided in the curriculum. had higher completion rates. Hmmm, seems like letting people explore a bit kept them motivated to continue. One reason could be that they got stuck on a section and then, because they were able to go around that spot, the continued working at the course, rather than getting stuck and then giving up.

So, have you used autonomy in your courses? What has you experience been?

Photo by Justin Luebke on Unsplash