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HOW CAN DETERMINED STUDENT EXPECTATIONS FACILITATE

ENGAGEMENT IN A VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT?


MELIKA ANDERSON, ARTEVIA MURPHY, JEAN PESCE, BARBARA SOLOMON

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA

Abbreviated Title: Facilitating engagement in virtual environments.


Last Date of Revision:

KEYWORDS

Virtual environment, facilitating engagement, motivating students

Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this research is to evaluate students expectations based on motivational factors.
The fact that many students in virtual classes fail to successfully complete the coursework is the
impetus for finding what would motivate them to do so. Although contemporary students are
drawn to technology, there are other factors involved when the technology is used for
educational purposes. Therefore, it is imperative for school systems to find what does and does
not motivate students to complete their online courses. In this study, 100 7th grade students and
one teacher in a mid-sized southern coastal urban school participate in playing the game,
Oregon Trail. Pre- and post-surveys were constructed to determine students expectations and
motivational factors before and after playing the game. The results show that the students feel
that motivation to participate in a virtual educational game is provided by extrinsic rewards, such
as pizza or money, and feedback from teachers. After this experience, the students will feel it is
very important to be self-motivated and have high expectations when participating in a Virtual
Environment.

Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

INTRODUCTION
This study design is based upon the expectancy-value theory. The foundation of this theory is
centred upon development and modification of attitudes based on assessments of attitudes and
beliefs. This study evaluates how setting student expectations through the use of intrinsic and
extrinsic motivational factors affect their level of online engagement in a virtual environment.
The information being sought is as follows: What are common students affective expectations in
virtual courses? What are common students cognitive expectations in a virtual environment?
What current options are available to offer students in a virtual environment? Which options
elicit the most favorable responses to specific types of expectations?

LITERATURE REVIEW
In review of studies for learning in virtual environments that addressed motivational factors and
students expectations towards online learning, we were able to identify that the body of research
in this area is quite extensive, especially within the past few years. I would credit growth in
research to the correlated growth and increase of technology usage and virtual learning tools
integrated into the educational curriculum. In expectancy-value theory, "effort" is identified as
the major measurable motivational outcome. For "effort" to occur, two necessary prerequisites
are specified: (1) the person must value the task and (2) the person must believe he or she can be
successful at completing the task.
In an instructional setting the goal of an assignment needs to be presented in a clear, engaging
and meaningful way to each student. It must also be presented in an encouraging manner,
implanting positive expectations for the completion of the objectives. Recent motivational
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Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

research focuses on identifying affective techniques for enhancing instructional design and
improving the management of both traditional and virtual learning settings.
Instructional design goes beyond meeting students needs, but rather pushes to identify and
surpass the needs of our diverse student populations (Wlodkowski, 1981). Researchers of
learner-motivation are finding that many of the theories that proved effective in the workingworld can be applied to education models to enhance the teaching-learning environment. One
such model is the ARCS Model of Motivational Design. This model was developed by John M.
Keller of Florida State University. The ARCS Model of Motivational Design is well-known and
accepted. Deceptively simple, this model is a powerful amalgamation of various motivational
theories, especially expectancy-value theory. The ARCS Model identifies four essential strategy
categories for motivating instruction:

[A]ttention strategies to peak and hold learner curiosity and interest;


[R]elevance strategies that associate to learners' wants, interests, and motives;
[C]onfidence strategies that encourage students to develop positive expectations for

success; and
[S]atisfaction strategies that give extrinsic and intrinsic support for effort.

Keller further breaks down each ARC category into three subcomponents.
ARCS Model of Motivational Design
ATTENTION
Purpose
Example
Perceptual Arousal provide a visual or
The teacher places a sealed box covered with
auditory surprise, a hook question marks on a table in front of the class.
or something to create
Inside is a model of a covered wagon.
uncertainty.
Inquiry Arousal
peak curiosity by asking
The teacher presents a problem and asks the class
questions.
to brainstorm possible solutions based on what
they have learned in the lesson.
Variability
include enough different
After detailing and reviewing each step in the
methods and media to
process on the overhead projector, the teacher
meet students' diverse and divides the class into teams and assigns each
differentiated needs
team a set of practice problems
RELEVANCE
Purpose
Example
Goal Orientation
present the objectives and
The teacher explains the objectives, all
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Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

expectations for success


related to the assignment.
Motive Matching

match objectives to student


needs and motives.

Familiarity

present content in ways


that are understandable and
that are related to the
learners' experience and
values.
Purpose
inform students about
learning and performance
requirements and
assessment criteria.
provide challenging and
meaningful opportunities
for successful learning.

CONFIDENCE
Learning
Requirements
Success
Opportunities:
Personal
Responsibility

link learning success to


students' personal effort
and ability.

SATISFACTION
Intrinsic
Reinforcement

Purpose
encourage and support
intrinsic enjoyment of the
learning experience.

Extrinsic Rewards

provide positive
reinforcement and
motivational feedback.

Equity

maintain consistent
standards and
consequences for success.

assignments and responsibilities, as well as the


different levels rewards (extrinsic) of the
Oregon Trail term project.
The teacher allows the student groups to
periodically present their progress in the game.
Groups may chose the format for the
presentation; written or oral to accommodate
different learning needs and styles.
The teacher asks the students to provide examples
from their lives in common with the game. Has
anyone here ever travelled on any part of the
Oregon Trail? Has anyone ever eaten rabbit
stew?
Example
The teacher provides students with a list of
assessment criteria for term group project and
shows PHOTOGRAPHS of last years END OF
TERM PARTY!
The teacher allows the students to practice
extracting and summarizing information from
various sources to supplement their prior
knowledge and improve their scores in the game.
The teacher makes sure every group and well as
individual student is given written and verbal
feedback on the quality of their performance,
giving credit to all for their effort.
Example
The teacher invites former students to provide
testimonials on how learning these skills helped
them with subsequent homework and class
projects
The teacher awards certificates to student groups
as they master each level of the game. At the end
of the term ALL students attend a group PIZZA
PARTY or OREGON themed Western BBQ
(Theme is determined by student vote! )
After the term project has been completed, the
teacher provides feedback/grade using the criteria
described in class and agreed on by the student
groups prior to the project start.

Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

Kurubacak & Baptiste (2003) focused on describing online learning attitudes, beliefs, and
expectations for College of Education students. This study attributed intrinsic motivational
factors such as the students having a positive attitude towards the success for online learning. It
highlighted both positive and negative beliefs, expectations, and attitudes towards online
learning. However the article suggests that establishing student expectations and addressing their
needs and concerns coupled with an increase in human interaction and collaboration can enhance
the students experiences.
Kim (2012) presents guidelines for addressing students affective and motivational needs in order
to promote personalized learning in an online remedial mathematics course. The article
highlighted the use of emotional scaffolding and use of the motivational design model as an
intrinsic motivational factor that influences the students attitudes towards successful
engagement in online lessons. The extrinsic values discussed in the research attributed to
increasing students engagement levels through making the learning experience useful and
applicable to them.

MATERIALS AND METHODS


A pre-Survey-will be administered to determine students prior expectations and motivational
factors before playing the game, Oregon Trail A post-survey-will then be administered to
determine if there were any changes of the students expectations and motivational factors after
play the game, Oregon Trail. These surveys will be used to see if there were any significant
differences on students expectations and motivational factors after playing the virtual game,
Oregon Trail. Students will receive the consent from their parents to participate in both
surveys. All students will be approved to participate in the surveys.

Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

PARTICIPANTS
The participants of this study include a total of 100 7th grade students and one teacher. The
selected school was mid-sized and housed 7th and 8th graders in an urban setting. The school was
located in a southern coastal state. The students selected were enrolled in 4 different class
sections. As a control, all of the class sections were taught by the same teacher. The twenty five
(25) students per class section were divided into five (5) teams of five (5) students each. Each
class section (made up of 5 groups of 5 students) met for nine weeks duration for a 90 minute
block of instruction. The learning environment was blended in nature in that students
participated face to face as well as in a synchronous collaborative virtual environment.

PROCEDURES
Each of the students will have to complete a pre-survey as well as a post-survey that
demonstrates the students expectations based on motivational factors in a virtual environment
and their feelings toward a virtual environment after the game (assignment) has been completed
with the consent from their parents. The name of the game used in the virtual classroom is called,
Oregon Trail and it is an online collaborative game that teaches students about life as a 19th
century pioneer. In the game, the students had to survive as they work with each other
collaboratively traveling from Independence, Missouri, all the way to Oregons Willamette
Valley over the Oregon Trail in a wagon. By surviving, students have to find food by hunting
wild animals to add to their food reserves. Throughout the game, members of the party could die
due to lack of food, illness and diseases. The points are rewarded based on how many members
remain alive the entire course, how much cash they had on hand, and their remaining
possessions.

Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

DATA COLLECTION & ANALYSIS


Before the teacher executed the game for all 4 groups, the students completed a pre-survey. The
pre-survey contained questions for the students based on the students expectations and
motivational factors that they had prior to playing the game. The survey used a four point Likert
scale that measured whether students strongly disagreed (1), disagreed (2), agreed (3), and
strongly agreed (4) with the questions. There was also another scale that was used to determine
the importance of each of the questions on a scale from 1-4 that showed whether students felt
that the question was very unimportant (1), unimportant (2), important (3), and very important
(4). According to the pre-survey, this survey determined the students satisfaction with their prior
experiences, knowledge, and learning styles in a virtual environment and factors that motivated
them. The students then received a tutorial from the teacher on how to increase their confidence
in the game and how to obtain a successful outcome. Once the game was completed, students
then had to fill out the post-survey to determine if the students prior views concerning learning
in a virtual environment changed any.
Motivation
Questions/Statements

Strongly
Disagree

Disagree

Agree

Strongly
Agree

MQ1-I have good


experiences in a VE.

10%-Before
5%-After

20%-Before
5%-After

30%-Before
40%-After

40%-Before
50%-After

MQ2-I am motivated to
participate in a VE only
when the subject is
interesting and practical.

40%-B

25%-B

15%-B

20%-B

45%-A

25%-A

10%-A

20%-A

Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

MQ3-Im more
motivated participate in
online learning if I can
win a pizza party or
money.

15%-B

25%-B

20%-B

40%-B

20%-A

20%-A

25%-A

35%-A

MQ4-Classes in virtual
settings are challenging.

20%-B

30%-B

20%-B

30%-B

5%-A
1%-B

20%-A
2%-B

25%-A
17%-B

50%-A
80%-B

2%-A

3%-A

10%-A

85%-A

Very
Unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very
Important

5%-B

5%-B

20%-B

70%-B

5%-A
5%-B

5%-A
25%-B

15%-A
30%-B

75%-A
40%-B

10%-A
7%-B

15%-A
8%-B

35%-A
30%-B

40%-A
55%-B

2%-A

3%-A

35%-A

60%-A

MQ5-My teacher helps


motivate me to be more
engaged in virtual
environments.
Value (Perceived)
Questions/Statements
VQ1-To what level of
importance is selfmotivation a part of VE?
VQ2-The amount of
time spent in a VE
affects your motivation.
VQ3-Competition
against others when
playing virtual games
affect your motivation.

VQ4-How do you view


5%-B
10%-B
25%-B
the importance of
10%-A
20%-A
immediate feedback in a 5%-A
VE?
VQ5-How do you rank
4%-B
6%-B
20%-B
the level of importance
3%-A
20%-A
of your expectations in a 2%-A
VE?
Table 1 Anticipated Responses to Survey Questions
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60%-B
65%-A
70%-B
75%-A

Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

DATA ANALYSIS
As evident in the data in Table 1 above and Table 2 below there were differences in the
perception of motivation and the value or importance of motivation from pre- to postparticipation in the online game. On the Motivation Questions, the most significant change of
20% more who Strongly Agree occurred in the response to MQ #4 (Classes in virtual settings
are challenging.) Another move toward Strongly Agree of 10% for MQ #1 (I have good
experiences in a VE) also was significant since the initial responses were already high at 40% of
the total for that question. This was a slightly different for MQ #3(Im more motivated to
participate in online learning if I can win a pizza party or money) which was initial high at 40%
but was reduced to 35% after participation. The highest Strongly Agree response both pre- and
post-participation was on MQ #5 (My teacher helps motivate me to be more engaged in virtual
environments.) which was initially 80% and later increased by 5%. With regard to the Value
Questions, there were some slight changes to the positive but most responses began very close to
the Very Important rating before participating with both VQ1 (To what level of importance is
self-motivation a part of VE?) and VQ5 (How do you rank the level of importance of your
expectations in a VE?) at 70%. The other VQ responses were moderately (40%) to moderately
high (60%) towards the Very Important rating.
In summary, we generally expect this to indicate that students feel they are motivated by various
factors when working online. Experiences with VEs are expected to be mostly positive for these
students with the addition of feeling challenged (therefore engaged) after this experience. They
will feel very strongly that teachers are helpful in providing a positive experience in participating
in virtual instruction and that they are much more motivated to participate in VEs with rewards
they value, such as pizza parties or money. It is anticipated that they will feel it is very

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Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

important to be self-motivated and have high expectations when participating in a VE. Feedback
and competition may hold a moderate amount of value and the amount of time spent on VE
assignments even less important.
Motivation
Questions/Statements
MQ1
MQ2
MQ3
MQ4
MQ5
Value (Perceived)
Questions/Statement
s
VQ1
VQ2
VQ3
VQ4
VQ5

Strongly
Disagree

Disagree
-5%
+5%
+5%
-15%
+1%

Very
Unimportant

Agree

Strongly Agree

-15%
+10%
+10%
0%
-5%
0%
-5%
+5%
-5%
-10%
+5%
+20%
+1%
-7%
+5%
Unimportant
Important
Very
Important

0%
0%
+5%
-10%
-5%
-5%
0%
0%
0%
0%
Table 2 - Mean Difference of responses Pre-Post

-5%
+5%
+5%
-5%
-5%

+5%
+5%
+5%
+5%
+5%

RESULTS
Statistical Results- There was not much significant difference from the pre-survey and postsurvey except when it came to the views on good experiences in a virtual environment and the
thought that classes in a virtual environment are challenging. In the pre-survey,70% of students
stated they had good experiences in a virtual environment, and in the post-survey, 90% of
students end up reporting that they had good experiences in a virtual environment after playing
the game. The topic concerning how challenging the classes were in a virtual environment went
from 50% to 75% agreeing that the game was challenging.

DISCUSSION

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Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

This project was designed to help educators understand the pedagogical approach to establishing
motivation factors to enhance the learning experience for students working in virtual learning
environments. This study was conducted from a constructivist approach in the use of gamebased learning to support authentic learning. The findings of this study will show how setting
expectations through establishing motivational factors affect the level of engagements for
students in a virtual environment.
General Limitations and Assumptions This study only includes 7th graders from the middle
school. A more comprehensive study would have included an evaluation of a group in each of
the middle school grade listings. Additional demographic information about the students such as
computer usage and gender, and the type of course they were enrolled in would have provided
additional factors to establish better understanding of the group dynamics and how those factors
may impact the results of the study. Another limitation of the study is that the survey questions
were not tested for reliability or validity to determine if they were appropriate for the study.
Further Directions and Experiments - This study has established a repeatable framework that can
be expounded upon in future studies. In further development of this study, enhancements can be
made by including questions that address frequency of computer usage and likelihood that the
assignment would contribute to increasing students level of engagement within the virtual
environment to compete the assignment.
Implications / Significance of the Study The results of this study will have many implications
for educators. This study can be used as a foundation for design, development, and
implementation of virtual learning assignments. It can also serve as a guideline for establishing
intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors prior to engaging students in virtual learning
experiences. This study prompts educator to ensure that expectations for learning are set in an

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Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

effort to obtain an increased level of engagement for students working in groups to complete
assignments in virtual environments. This project demonstrated how teams of students can
collaborate with their classmates to effectively complete the game assignments and survive to the
end.

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Anderson, Murphy, Pesce, Solomon Facilitating engagement in online learning

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