Using Motivational Modelling With an App Designed to Increase Student Performance and Retention

Using Motivational Modelling With an App Designed to Increase Student Performance and Retention

Leon Sterling, Sonja Pedell, Grainne Oates
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5074-8.ch008
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Quitch is software designed to increase student performance and retention. It is a content-neutral, gamified mobile learning platform used across many disciplines, including accounting, chemistry, and engineering. The aim of Quitch is to ensure students feel engaged with their learning. Motivational modelling is a high-level approach to understand the purpose of a system. It is novel in its incorporation of emotional factors. This chapter discusses how the authors applied motivational modelling to Quitch to explain its purpose and potential. The chapter then more generally discusses how their modelling approach can help with the design and development of new software applications especially in the education space.
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Quitch is a mobile platform to support learning outcomes. It was developed to overcome the challenges of students not being engaged with the educational material of their subjects, thereby resulting in low retention and high failure rates. It is frustrating to see students fail the same subjects year in, year out—no matter what was tried by the academic teaching team. Engaging students in their learning and with content can be challenging. Student engagement has long been recognized as a challenge facing first-year students in particular, as the transition to university life can be difficult (Berger & Milem, 1999; Pascarella, Terenzini, & Wolfle, 1986; Tinto, 1987). However, prior to addressing the problem of engagement, it is important to define the term in the context of adult and higher education learning.

Engagement is a theoretical orientation that has received great attention from educators and researchers. There are two major approaches to engagement: one entails students’ cognitive, behavioural, and emotional engagement (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004), and the other approach is characterised by vigor, dedication, and absorption (Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Rom, & Bakker, 2002). Our focus in developing Quitch combined both these approaches. We strived to engage students through cognitive, behavioural and emotional connections as well as the vigor, dedication and absorption they demonstrated in engaging with content.

In today’s educational environment, there is an ever-present risk that students will be distracted by their digital devices. Typically students are more interested in social media and games than learning. This was reported by students in the focus groups run to develop the original version of Quitch. It drove us to develop a product that had elements of gamification which would appeal to our end users. Therefore, instead of trying to fight against the lure of mobile technology, it was decided to exploit it for the purpose of creating innovative ways of learning and teaching.

The challenge for developing Quitch was how to deliver educational content in an engaging manner using mobile technology, while still being true to the essence of the content to be successfully communicated. Quitch has proven to fulfill this goal (Pechenkina, Laurence, Oates, Eldridge, & Hunter, 2017). However there is no process to explain its success. Explaining the underlying success criteria with motivational models from software engineering is the purpose of this chapter. The intent is to provide a process that can be followed for developing future applications in education.

Feeling engaged is an emotion, and emotional requirements are typically not addressed in software development, especially not explicitly. Our motivational modelling approach explicitly addresses emotional requirements (Miller et al., 2015; Lopez-Lorca, Burrows, & Sterling, 2018). It has been shown to guide a reliable process to develop software that is more likely to be taken up by users through considering emotional requirements and engage people while using the developed software.

We suggest that it is possible to use the motivational modelling process to unfold and explain the success factors of Quitch and make these explicit for future learning. The models can be used to help guide the development of software which needs to be engaging. We have applied motivational modelling to explain Quitch, and to build a shared understanding of the goals of Quitch to a variety of stakeholders.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Retention: The capacity of students to keep learning material in their memory.

Engagement: The time the user spends with the app is experienced as positive.

Consolidation: The process of making learning material more solid for later recall.

Motivational Modelling: High-level approach to understand the purpose of a system formulated as goals.

Empowering: The user of the app feels in control of the learning process.

Emotions in Software: Feelings the student has while using the software app.

Gamification: The software is built with playful elements, although the activity is not a game.

Performance: The ability to fulfil learning goals as expected by the teacher.

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