Using reward contingencies in online activities to facilitate engagement in a statistics class

This presentation was by Xochitl de la Piedad Garcia opened by introducing a definition for engagement which is the time, energy and resources that students devote to activities designed to enhance learning at university.

With statistics, the course and the knowledge-base is cumulative, so the question is how to facilitate students engagement in a first year statistics unit? Using behaviourism as a framework, the idea was to encourage those behaviours that was going to increase the likelihood of students developing specific bhaviours that are related to improved performance. The relationship is mediated by behavioural and emotional factors.

The aim was to use an online learning management system to deliver weekly online exercises to facilitate engagement in the unit, while also opening up opportunities for providing detailed feedback on performance so that students can track their progress and understanding. Two-hundred and thirty-two students enrolled and they had 10 weekly online exercises from week 3 to week 10 to complete – while they had their notes and text books beside them, and there was no time limit to the completion. After answering each question students were given detailed feedback. If students did not complete an exercise they could not complete the other exercises (this was not well-received by some people in the university).

The feedback from students (from 50) – 31 students provided positive comments, 19 were negative. The negative comments always made reference to the fact that this was an unfair system.

This felt like we weren’t just staying still, but we were sliding backward into a time where learners were punished for not doing something that the teacher mandated was important. It was quite depressing…I had to ask ‘why’? If students weren’t engaging maybe the faculty needs to look at the design of their course design, and the form of assessments…just a thought.

About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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