Tricks-of-the-trade that boost student motivation

I received a long and very thoughtful email yesterday from Calum Munro, who teaches IT in Melbourne, Australia. Calum said

Yacapaca is not … a resource to ‘over use’ as the students have a low concentration/interest span and if they use a quiz a lot (even with the shuffling that the program does) they just start to do the answers automatically without really reading the questions or feedback – they seem to be able to pick out the keywords in the questions and the answers.

Calum went on to suggest some new interesting features, which we’ll certainly research. But… he set me wondering how many teachers know how to use the existing features to maximise motivation. So, here is my mini-primer…


  • If you are using quizzes on the avatar template, encourage the students to select their own avatars, and make a point of asking them why they chose their particular selection. Most teachers don’t ‘get’ avatars, but the kids do. Choice of avatar represents ownership, and this increases involvement and motivation.
  • Understand that the kids’ motivations in the moment are to score points and not to learn per se. Feedback makes sense if it will help you get a higher score. How? Run a quiz twice, and tell students you will record their second attempt to your markbook. If you authored the quiz yourself, run the first first attempt on the ‘Quiz-timing’ template, which puts all the feedback at the end of the quiz, then give the students pair item to read through it and discuss their answers.
  • Most users know about the Analysis Whiteboard, but if you want to promote competition, and your kids are emotionally robust enough to handle it, try the student rank whiteboard button on the Results -> Quizzes page.
  • If you are an author, look at the function of your questions. If your quizzes only promote rote memorisation, then of course the kids will get bored. Make sure most of your questions address understanding and evaluation. The links are to how-to posts.

Quick Assignments (QAs)

  • Don’t stop short at quizzes. Use all the features Yacapaca offers for creative input!
  • Use QAs  for all kinds of small projects. For larger, file-upload projects, encourage students to embellish them with images, videos, sounds.
  • Comment promptly (online) on students’ work. Get out of the habit of waiting for it to be ‘handed in’. You can encourage and reward right now.


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One response to “Tricks-of-the-trade that boost student motivation”

  1. A number of people say to me that they do not want to engage with online communication/teaching/learning because you lose F2F serendipity. I have to laugh at this, because I think being ‘virtual’ increases it. Take today: I get an email to say you are following me on Twitter. I went and looked at your Twitter page. You seem like a reasonable bloke, so I ‘follow’ you. Then I see that you have written a blog post on motivation which is, blow me down, the next thing I want to think/blog about as part of a project/course that I am involved with.

    So long story short, thanks for this post – it will go some way to answering some of my questions. Sarah

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