Seven Must-Read Books About Education: The 2017 List

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Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  Charles William Eliot

My aim with the must-read book list is to curate a collection of books to read this coming year that provide thoughtful, unique perspectives on education and learning. This is the fourth-annual post featuring seven books that cross disciplines—it includes books from business, science and technology and digital culture. My goal is to try to gain a perspective on the direction education might be heading in an effort to anticipate what we can do to remain relevant, current and effective.

1. Social Media for Academics, by Mark Carrigan
I first learned about this book when reading an interview with author Carrigan published on Inside Higher Ed. Since interest in the title and topic was so high when sharing an overview on social media and due to its practical nature, I placed it number one on my must-read list. The book appears instructive, a true guide as the title suggests. There are nine chapters in all; chapter two is available to preview here.

2. Learning Environment Modeling: Redefining Learning Environment Design

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Learning Environment Modeling: Redefining Learning Environment Design, https://squareup.com/store/iled

“Learning Environment Models are blueprints used for communicating the design of learning environments.” http://cece.uco.edu/lem/

I’m looking forward to this book—it outlines a design method for creating learning experiences. The method is described as “a visual and collaborative [design] process for designing the spaces and places where people learn”. The concept of LEM is founded by a group of educators at University of Central Oklahoma who started the non-profit Institute for Learning Environment Design. The book is attractive and inviting. It makes effective use of white space and includes several diagrams illustrating key concepts. It’s for sale via the Institute for Learning Environment Design’s website.

3 . Weapons of Math Destruction, by Cathy O’Neil
We’ve read much about the potential of “Big Data” over the last couple of years, which essentially is data manipulated by algorithms to turn what is generated by individuals’ participation on digital platforms (e.g. LMS platforms). EDUCAUSE featured an article recently about the potential and pitfalls of big data in education, how algorithms can be used to predict student achievement, attrition, even patterns in course consumption. Activity by students produces vast data, yet, is it used responsibly and accurately? After listening to an interview with the author on NPR where O’Neil alludes to algorithms and public education, Weapons of Math Destruction seems a worthy and necessary read. Despite the author’s somewhat gloomy outlook on algorithms potential, the book’s made the list.

deep-work-cal-newport4. Deep Work: Rules for a Distracted World, by Cal Newport
“In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.”

Intriguing. Perhaps the book holds  insights educators and students can apply to enhance learning and development in our increasingly cluttered learning environments. The book  has received solid reviews from The Economist, Wall Street Journal and The Guardian.

5.  MOOCs and Open Education Around the World, edited by Curtis Bonk, Mimi Lee, Thomas Reeves & Thomas Reynolds
A must-read list about education wouldn’t be complete without a title dealing with MOOCs. I chose this book for two key reasons, one is the publisher, Routledge— I have not been disappointed by the quality of their books, and second because of the main editor, Curtis Bonk, an e-learning scholar and author I have followed for several years because of his (early) innovative thinking on distance and open education. The book features insights and learning related to the delivery of MOOCs and other forms OERs in regions and nations around the world.

51sqaax7pgl-_sx331_bo1204203200_6. Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students and Parents Love, by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis

Geared to K-12 leaders, this is the fifth installment of a book on practical applications for educational leadership written by two school administrators. I’ve included it here because of its content—it appears relevant to current day learning issues and focuses on people, not technology. What confirmed the book as a must-read is chapter 8, the topic is empowering teachers to direct their own learning. The book also gets solid reviews…”This book is not only an easy read but very practical for school leadership. The suggestions are based very much on today’s schools and the community we serve. One of the best leadership books available with great information from cover to cover.”  Melissa Boyle, Amazon, Verified Purchase

7. The Third Wave: An Entrepreneurs Vision of the Future, by Steve Case
I like to read books by big-picture thinkers who give insight what the future might hold. In previous lists I’ve selected books that focus on higher education, last year’s list featured The End of College. The Third Wave is broader in scope, yet I chose it based on a talk I heard the author Steve Case give a few years ago. I was impressed by his insight into education and technology. Though the book’s description suggests its geared to entrepreneurs, it’s applicable to leaders of any type of institution including education given its emphasis on relationships (not just technology) with stakeholders in a digital age.

“Case explains the ways in which newly emerging technology companies (a growing number of which, he argues, will not be based in Silicon Valley) will have to rethink their relationships with customers, with competitors, and with governments; and offers advice for how entrepreneurs can make winning business decisions and strategies—and how all of us can make sense of this changing digital age”. (About, thethirdwavebook.com)

Closing
I look forward to another year of good company with some great books. Thank you for reading Online Learning Insights, which provides motivation  for me to continue writing and sharing.

A Guide for MOOC Course Developers and Facilitators: “The MOOC Case Book”

Following is a review of “The MOOC Case Book: Case Studies in MOOC Design, Development and Implementation” the second-place winner of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT)’s Division of Distance Learning (DDL) Book Award, 2016.

Image of Book Cover: The MOOC Case Book: Case Studies in MOOC Design, Development and Implementation
“The MOOC Case Book”, Linus Learning (2015)

The “MOOC Case Book” is a collection of case studies written by (mostly) educators sharing their experiences developing, delivering, and supporting a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from the perspective of one of eight dimensions of Khan’s e-learning framework. Khan’s Framework provides structure to the daunting task of developing a MOOC. Not only from a course design perspective but by providing strategies for the host of factors that impact the success of a MOOC. Factors associated with the Technological dimension for instance that involve the MOOC’s platform features, and the Institutional dimension that encompasses student services such as academic advising or institution policies. There’s also the dimension of Resource Support which addresses support for faculty in course design and technical online support for students. Details of Khan’s Framework are covered in chapter two; the image below provides a snapshot.

The book is geared to readers involved in developing or facilitating a MOOC. It provides guidance and knowledge; readers can learn from the experiences of chapter-authors who have ‘been-there-and-done-that’—who have invested the time and energy needed to pull a MOOC together.  Included in the studies are two written from the student perspective, providing further depth to the stories shared. Readers interested in learning how institutions and educators are using digital platforms to deliver online learning—the methods, challenges and barriers faced, will find the studies within instructive, even entertaining.

Following is an overview of Khan’s Framework and highlights of a handful of the case studies. One disclaimer, I wrote one of the case studies—chapter #3 “Pedagogy and MOOCs: Practical Applications of Khan’s E-Learning Framework”. The chapter, as the title suggests, focuses on the Pedagogical dimension of the Framework.

About Khan’s Framework
As an instructional designer I’ve often heard from faculty and design teams the drawbacks of using a model (instructional design models such as ADDIE or the Dick, Carey & Carey model) for the instructional design process. Drawbacks mentioned include words such as, ‘cumbersome’, ‘too linear’, rigid’, and ‘inhibits creativity’. Khan’s Framework is different from traditional design models; it’s holistic. Not only does it address the design phase, but goes beyond by including elements critical to a MOOC’s success and sustainability. It expands to delivering and assessing the MOOC and supporting MOOC stakeholders. These elements, delivery and sustainability in particular are critical. More so when MOOCS are developed and implemented by higher education institutions; there are a host of issues  administrators need to know and make decisions on.

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Khan’s E-Learning Framework

How the Book is Structured
There are eleven sections—one dedicated to each of the eight dimensions of the Framework. There are twenty-three case studies, with a great diversity in the institutions represented—Ivy league and public institutions, as well as  small private schools. The MOOCs cover topics ranging from remedial college-prep courses, English composition, poetry, statistics, global health and more. The courses are delivered on platforms readers will recognize, Coursera and EdX, and some specific to an institution; authors share the challenges, barriers and lessons learned when working with the features inherent to each.

Application
Badrul Khan’s Framework preceded the MOOC phenomenon yet its applicability to the MOOC scenarios is impressive and telling. Chapter-authors describe the factors they dealt with in detail in light of one of the eight dimensions (chapters 3 – 25). Chapter 1 gives the reader a solid overview of the factors associated with each dimension, giving context to each case study. Table #3, “Issues for Addressing MOOC Learning Environments” is especially helpful with its list of questions specific to each dimension; course development teams will find these helpful during the design phase and after the course is launched. Below are select questions specific to the Pedagogical dimension (p. 11):

  • How well does the MOOC course plan align with the course goals and outcomes?
  • Does the course provide a clear description of what learners should be able to do at every stage of the course?
  • How well is the instructional strategy being used to target each objective?
  • How good is the content? How well do learners interact with it?
  • How well does the course design contribute to an interactive and flexible learning environment?

Case Study Highlights
In respect of time I’ll highlight just a few case studies to provide a glimpse into what the book provides. Chapter 5 focuses on the Technological dimension. The author shares how digital tools, e.g. Social media and online surveys, as well as MOOC platform features were used to deliver differentiated learning for students (pp. 63 – 79). In chapter 11 the reader is given a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the development of a MOOC, “Statistics One”, offered on the Coursera platform by Princeton University. The lead author also instructor of the MOOC, analyzes the course through the lens of the Evaluation dimension. He shares the challenges of assessing student learning, specifically creating and implementing assignments, primarily a result of the features inherent to the MOOC platform (pp. 136 – 162).

The key factors associated with the Management dimension of Khan’s framework is described in chapter 13 where the chapter-author from Penn State University highlights the school’s experience delivering the MOOC “Epidemic: infectious Disease and Dynamics”, deemed by Penn State as a great success. Success defined by Penn State as adhering to a detailed project management timetable which delivered the MOOC on time and in the highest quality possible. Success also includes the fact that Penn’s MOOC achieved a higher than average completion rate (compared to average completion rates of MOOCs on Coursera) at 14%, and a rating of number one science course as ranked by Coursetalk (p. 183).

Closing
There are many applications for The MOOC Case Book; it can be a useful tool for MOOC course design teams, students of instructional design and educational technology, and for higher education institution leaders involved in MOOCs. As Curtis Bonk writes in the book’s Forward, though MOOCs are not and can never be a solution to the challenges facing education, they can expand our thinking and perspectives on the future of education that lends hope to better educational world (p. xvii).

  • “BADRULKHAN.COM.” BADRULKHAN.COM. n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.
  • Corbeil, Joseph Rene, Maria Elena Corbeil, and Badrul H. Khan. The MOOC Case Book: Case Studies in MOOC Design, Development and Implementation. Ronkonkoma, NY: Linus Learning, 2015. Print.

 

“The End of College” is Not Really the END, but The Beginning

“Enrollment in the University of Everywhere will be lifelong, a fundamental aspect of modern living”  — “The End of College”

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The End of College by Kevin Carey, 2015, Riverhead Books

The End of College: Creating the future of Learning and the University of Everywhere is not a doomsday book despite the key words in the title “The END”. A more apt title might be “The End of Traditional College”. Its message is how traditional college, with its institution and research-centric paradigm has less to do with student learning and more to do with an admissions process that is out-of-control, institutions that are far-removed from making student learning a priority, and an out-of-date accreditation system focused on the credit-hour. This will change in the next generation. Carey describes how higher education is, and will continue its transformation to the University of Everywhere, driven by student demand and technology innovations.

There is a sliver of doom in Carey’s writing; he warns that institutions that view education technology as a fad, another trend to be waited out, will come to an end. Colleges that remain unchanged today will disappear tomorrow  (pg. 244). Carey’s book echoes the message in Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges by Richard DeMillo published in the pre-MOOC era (2011). Abelard to Apple is more dire, with an explicit warning for colleges and universities of the ‘middle’ (second tier institutions). According to Demillo the majority of higher education institutions are headed for irrelevance and marginalization unless they take action. Demillo like Carey, wrote that technology is the driver of change, the vehicle for education transformation. Demillo went further, describing how the complexity of the higher education system serves as the most significant barrier to innovation and change. Those that don’t (or won’t) change are destined for demise with one exception—the universities in the ‘ivy league’.  Demillo and Carey are in agreement on this point, that the elite schools will be immune, insulated by power and money.

Carey’s book received sharp criticism. Some critics called Carey’s University of Everywhere a utopia of higher education with its education promises of personalized learning, rigorous coursework where students won’t be able  to ‘coast’, where technology makes education better, not easier (pg. 248). Carey’s University of Everywhere also dismantles the idea of public institutions as the fulcrum of higher education (in United States) by suggesting they serve a different purpose: for research—yes, places for life-long learning experiences and collaboration—also yes, but undergraduate education taught primarily by distracted faculty engaging in research—no.

There is not now and there never will be a substitute for the deliberate practice necessary to gain real expertise. The higher-learning organizations of the future will give students the right kids of hard work to do, and they will recognize that work by awarding credible evidence of accomplishment. But they won’t do students’ work for them. What parents can do is to hep their children build the intellectual and emotional tools they will need for the demanding and rewarding tasks. (pg 248)

Matt Reed, one of the book’s critics, suggests in a blog post at Inside Higher Ed that the mission of public university will be comprised with Carey’s suggested model, to the detriment of society. Audrey Watters agrees, stating in “Techno Fantasies” that Carey’s model is deeply flawed, citing the rise of private entities such as MOOC provider Coursera and Udacity as evidence that online education is flawed and that research supporting the effectiveness of technology-driven learning is “paltry” at best.

But the critics miss Carey’s main point. He is not saying MOOCs will replace higher education or that public universities will be obsolete. Nor is he saying technology is the answer to higher education’s woes. He is saying that there will be a shift in the higher education model in the next generation, that brick and mortar institutions will play a different role and information technology is an important part of achieving education goals, but that the system associated with higher education involving accreditation, delivery, admissions, research, access, and cost associated with education, will change because of technology. Just like in any other industry, like medicine or manufacturing, where technology brings about transformation that leads to improvements in quality and lowered costs.

Carey does discuss MOOCs, in fact he describes his experience taking a MOOC on the edX platform. He also discusses Minerva, a new university based on the elite education-model without walls, and new models of accreditation based on digital learning identities. Carey shares these narratives with readers to emphasize the alternatives to a model of education that has changed little over decades, with few improvements in aspects of quality and accessibility. That’s Carey’s main point—the shift to a University of Everywhere will provide more access to education, improve quality and lower costs because of advancements in technology, and a shift in culture, our values and expectations.

The idea of “admission” to college will become an anachronism, because the University of Everywhere will be open to everyone. It won’t in fact, be single place or institution at all. The next generation of students will not waste their teenage years jostling of spot in a tiny number of elitist schools. Their educational experience will come from dozens of organizations, each specializing in different aspects of human learning. (pg 5)

Conclusion
Educators and parents who are eager to learn about the future and possibilities of higher education will find The End of College: Creating the future of Learning and the University of Everywhere insightful and instructive. The book is even more applicable to those who want to be part of the change for the next generation of learning, the beginning of a new paradigm of learning that literally is everywhere.

3 Takeaways from “What Connected Educators Do Differently”

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By Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul, Jimmy Casas

How do you stay current, relevant and up-to-date with the new technologies in education? What Connected Educators do Differently has answers for educators looking to start and cultivate a  professional (or personal) learning network (PLN) to stay current and connected. Following are key takeaways from the book and from two other resources that go beyond the basics of starting a PLN.

Connected Educator Defined: “Being a connected educator is not a formal title…we define connected educators simply as ones who are activity and constantly seeking new opportunities and resources to grow as professionals” (Whitaker, Zoul, Casas, 2015, page xxiii)

Practical, concise and geared to the novice, the book provides advice and examples on how to start and build a personal network using digital tools. It  focuses mostly on using Twitter and is specific to K-12, but the principles are sound and Twitter is a good starting point for learning how to connect and build a network. Within the eight chapters, each labeled as ‘Key Connector’ is a strategy outlining key principles along with examples from each author’s experience. The stories make it an engaging read. At the end of each chapter is an action plan — “Follow 5, Find 5, Take 5”.  There are suggestions of whom to follow on Twitter,  (Follow 5), a list of resources and how-to strategies for building a network  (Find 5), and suggested action steps (Take 5).

Two of the best chapters are chapter 6, “Relationships, Relationships, Relationships” and chapter 8 “Know When to Unplug”. In chapter 6 authors emphasize the value of face-to-face interactions and the strength of in-person connections. In chapter 8 the importance of disconnecting from technology is stressed. The latter is of great value; disconnecting from the screen is not emphasized enough in instructional resources on building digital networks or managing digital information. Developing a PLN can become all-consuming. The reminder is not misplaced.

Three Takeaways
The following takeaways are from the book, from Jane Hart’s blog post “The Future of Work and Learning 1: The Professional Ecosystem” (2016), and from a journal article Scholars in an increasingly open and digital world: How do education professors and students use Twitter (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2015).

1. Unique Mindset Required
Expanding one’s professional network, building a PLN or professional ecosystem is a commitment and a choice. It isn’t driven by company or school-initiated professional development, but is driven from within—where individuals seek out learning opportunities and resources online or in-person. It’s  a mindset where learning is pulled, gathered and curated based upon a person’s own learning needs and interests, which means each PLN is unique. Along with Mindset is motivation; developing a PLN or professional ecosystem needs both. Not surprisingly, authors emphasize that not all educators are, or will become connected educators.

2. It’s about Relationships
Developing and growing professionally and personally involves connecting and interacting with content—digital and physical, as well as with real people. The online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or Slack that are used to ‘connect’ educators are the tools, the vehicles that bring us together. Granted, communicating online does require a unique set of skills to build and develop personal relationships, but the personal connection is still central to growing professionally. Jane Hart’s suggests that within a Professional Ecosystem there is a “personal performance support system” and “personal career coach”: people who are central to one’s personal and professional growth.

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Example of Professional Ecosystem by Jane Hart, “The Future of World and Learning 1”

3. It Takes Time
One of the barriers to becoming a Connected Educator or developing a Personal Ecosystem is time. Authors Whitaker, Zoul and Casas offer a solution, “we must make time” (emphasis added) (pg 9). They acknowledge that most teachers and instructors are swamped, doing more with less. Yet their response is that in order to keep pace with constant change in technology and a society with access to an abundance of information, making time to connect and be connected is essential. And time is often personal time, outside of work hours. Though as all the resources stress, it takes consistent and concerted effort to develop a PLN but it’s worth it. I can vouch for this from my experience.

Conclusion
I recommend What Connected Educators do Differently for people who are thinking about becoming connected, want to build a learning network but don’t know where to start. For those who already have a PLN and want to expand it, I suggest exploring Jane Hart’s site Learning in the Modern Social Workplace. Hart is a model of a connected professional and you’ll be sure to find some inspiration and ideas.

For those wanting a quick fix, want to know how to get started on Twitter, this brief synopsis from the journal article on Twitter offers this pithy advice: “(a) tweet often, (b) follow many other users, (c) self-identify as a professor if accurate, and (d) continue using Twitter over an extended period. Whether one views this advice as gaming the system or legitimate participation in the community may depend on one’s own assumptions” (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2016).

References

You can follow Online Learning Insights on Twitter @OnlineLearningI

What Does a Growth Mindset Have to Do with Learning?

mindset.001We can learn to be smart is the premise of Mindset The New Psychology of Success: How we Can Learn to Fulfill our Potential by Carol Dweck (2006). Dweck debunks the idea that intelligence is fixed, is predetermined by our gene pool. Instead, Dweck suggests individuals with a ‘growth mindset’ develop intelligence and abilities over time. In her book Dweck defines growth mindset as a state when individuals view personal qualities such as intelligence, abilities and talents as malleable. This contrasts those with a ‘fixed mindset’ who see  qualities like intelligence as innate or inherited. People with a growth mindset according to Dweck, challenge themselves; they aren’t afraid of making mistakes, are known to go-for-it. People with fixed mindsets on the other hand are afraid of making mistakes, afraid of moving out of their comfort zones. Fixed mindset people Dweck describes as preoccupied with outcomes, the final grade or successful work project for instance, over the process and experience.

To support her philosophy Dweck quotes Robert Sternberg, psychologist and professor of human development at Cornell University who states that a key factor in whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement” (pg. 5).

How Growth Mindset Applies to Learning
Dweck outlines several applications of the growth mindset to education. One she emphasizes is that educators need to act as role models. This contrasts with typical roles where people who are put in an expert role, educators for example, often feel they need to have all of the answers. This can limit their growth and student learning. Instructors need to model behaviours that include showing students you don’t have all of the answers, and that pursuit of knowledge, failure and even confusion, is part of the learning process.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-27-at-11.37.21Applications for Learning:

  • Learners can be taught a growth mindset. Dweck developed a program that teaches students growth mindset principles—intelligence is not fixed, students are in charge of their learning, need to stretch in order to get smarter. Students taught a growth mindset performed better academically.
  • Telling students they are smart, intelligent and giving constant praise can lead to a fear making mistakes, fear of failure and a fixed mindset.
  • Learning experiences need to be challenging—difficult. The concept that learning needs to be difficult is reinforced in Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. The premise of chapter 4 in Make it Stick, “Embrace Difficulties” suggests learning is deeper and more durable when it requires considerable effort (Brown, Roediger & McDaniel, 2014, p. 73). See video featuring Carol Dweck on Struggle where she discusses the importance of challenge in learning.

Tips for Educators to Support a Growth Mindset

  • Encourage students to be comfortable with setbacks and confusion.
  • Don’t praise talent, praise process. Dweck’s research revealed that praising talent leads to fixed mindsets. Praising process includes acknowledging, resilience, effort, collaboration, and the experience.
  • Be comfortable with confusion, for your students and yourself, and not finding the answer right away.

Closing Thoughts
Approaching learning with a growth mindset frees learners to expand, grow and engage fully in the process without the constraints of IQ or SAT scores.  Following a growth mindset as Dweck describes, requires a conscious effort, a mindset, a skill set. Yet  it’s a perspective that educators can model and foster by their own actions, by making learning difficult, acknowledging and allowing for failure, and emphasizing the process of learning, not the outcome. Which mindset do you have?

Further Reading

References

  • Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. Print.
  • Roediger, Henry L., Mark A. McDaniel, and Peter C. Brown. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. N.p.: Harvard UP, 2014. Print.

Image credit: Growth Mindset, bigchange.org

Can “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” Help Make Learning a Habit?

Habit: noun: a usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way — Merriam-Webster

Hooked-hardcover“Hooked” is about how to build habit-forming products…habit-forming digital products that is. I included “Hooked” on my must-read list to see if any of the principles discussed might apply to education—Learning Management Systems (LMSs) for instance or other ed-tech applications. Given our culture’s fixation with mobile devices, surely there might be some lessons to make digital education applications more compelling. Can educators create platforms or applications that ‘hook’ students into learning, where learning behaviors become a habit? If so, how? Hooked provides some answers—see below.

‘The Hook’ Model
Author Nir Eyal, entrepreneur and product designer describes the book’s topic as “behavioral design”.  Behavioral design when applied to product development incorporates concepts of user experience, behavioral economics and neuroscience. Nir describes it as the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. His recipe for creating habit-forming products begins with ‘The Hook’ model.

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Nir Eyal’s “Hook” model encompasses four elements that products need to become habit-forming. Yet it’s not a guarantee for success, “new products can’t just be better, they must be nine times better” (pg 17).

Trigger
A trigger, either internal or external, leads to a behavior—it’s the spark that prompts action. Habit-forming products start by alerting users with external triggers such as an email, a website link, or an app icon on a smart phone, with the aim of prompting repeat engagement until a habit is formed. The trigger also tells the user of what to do next—to act.

Action
The action needs to be seamless; the user should be able to act with ease —without barriers. Action according to Nir, relies not only on ease of use but on principles of human behavior. It’s based on the premise that the user seeks one of three things: 1) pleasure in order to avoid pain, 2) hope to avoid fear, or 3) social acceptance to avoid rejection. Jack Dorsey founder of Twitter builds on this premise with his platform which is designed to solve a problem (communication, knowledge building), while addressing desires and emotions of its users (social acceptance via ‘likes’, retweets, etc.) (pg 39).

Variable Reward
What distinguishes the Hook model from the traditional feedback loop (embodied by the familiar model B.F. Skinner’s model where rewards are used to support behavior change through  positive reinforcement) is the variability of the reward which creates a desire for feedback, motivating the user to seek it out. Traditional feedback loops are predictable; they don’t create desire according to Nir. Yet when there’s uncertainty to the reward or  variability to the type of reward—the user’s interest is piqued  Think of the variability of the reward structure with slot machines; they’re unpredictable. In an education context, Nir describes how Codeacademy uses variable rewards with symbols that benchmark students progress along with variable feedback that uses rewards to fulfill the student’s desire for acceptance and validation (pg. 89).

Investment
The investment occurs when the user puts something into the product or service such as time, data, effort, social capital or money (pg. 7). The more users invest in the product or service, the more they value it—supporting the idea that labor leads to love. This investment concept is applicable to education—online courses for example where students contribute to course content (investment of time), complete course work (more time) and engage with peers (even more time).

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Image (above) of a screenshot from the YouVersion app which follows the four elements of the Hook model. The screen shot shows how rewards are built into the app, with the feature of ‘likes’ used by the community.

Case Study: The Hook Model in Action
After reading the case study of the Bible app, YouVersion in “Hooked” I could see the application of the Hook model, its relevance to learning contexts. The app provides a selection of bible study programs users can choose from based upon their needs. The app sends reminders and encouraging messages when readings or homework is due. When a message is avoided or missed, a red icon appears over the app, another cue. If more than two readings are missed,  users receive a supportive message suggesting they consider a different (less challenging) plan. There’s also a virtual community, where encouragement from its members is another source of ‘triggers’. Rewards come in several forms. When  a reading assignment is done for instance, the user gets a message “Day Complete” with a check mark on the app’s calendar. YouVersion is a success story. It’s the #1 downloaded Bible app with over 200,000,000 downloads.

How the Hook Model Can be Applied to Learning
What if learning did become a habit, where students check into their online class daily, share relevant content with classmates or engage in group assignments willingly? The case study of Youversion is instructive, suggesting that the model concepts are applicable to learning scenarios, specifically to learning platforms and applications. Learning applications created thoughtfully and purposefully can support behavior changes that result in seamless learning, with few barriers and built-in rewards that provide variety and freshness that also leverage the learning community.  Yet creating learning that follows the Hook model requires a different mindset, and commitment to create compelling learning with integrity and care that protects students, content and the process of learning.

Resources