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What It Takes to Motivate People to Learn Online

Whether out of private interest or for professional development: self-learning with the assist of videos or other digital learning materials has been popular not just since the COVID-19 pandemic. With the conviction that "Knowledge Is the Best Answer", the Virtual University of Bavaria (vhb) has already been making university knowledge freely available in the form of self-learning courses via its OPEN vhb platform since July 2019. In a cooperation between the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi) in Bamberg and the vhb, this will now be investigated. A current online survey focusses on the questions what it takes to motivate participants to continue their education with the OPEN vhb courses as well as how learning motivation develops over the duration of the course. The cooperation partners are looking forward to the feedback of the users, which will pay into the further development of the OPEN vhb courses.

OPEN vhb courses are open online courses offered by Bavarian universities via a common platform. They can be used free of charge by anyone interested. The courses are generally not designed to achieve a university degree, but for self-motivated, lifelong learning. Currently, OPEN vhb offers almost 90 courses in ten areas of knowledge - e.g. basic philosophy, business management, media informatics or the basics of cell biology. All courses are designed as self-learning units. This means that learners determine their own learning pace without being bound to a fixed time schedule, but must also motivate themselves to learn over longer periods of time.

Understanding motivational processes
This is where a current LIfBi survey comes in. The "Education in a Digital World" research group wants to know: How does motivation change over time? What factors have an influence on its maintenance? How do learners who maintain their motivation differ from learners whose motivation declines over time? And are there critical times when learners are likely to lose motivation and drop out of a course?

To answer these questions, some OPEN vhb courses are now linked to questionnaires. Participants are asked to voluntarily take a short online survey at the beginning, middle, and near the end of a course.

Creating positive learning experiences
One OPEN vhb course provider is Jörg Wolstein, Professor of Pathopsychology at the University of Bamberg. His "Stress Management" is one of the courses in which the questionnaires are placed. "The insights we can draw from the survey are also very helpful for us as course designers. If we know how motivation changes over the duration of the course, we can incorporate elements to motivate our participants to continue working on the course, thus contributing to a positive learning experience."

Closing research gaps
With the data obtained, LIfBi researchers hope to reduce the research gap that currently exists on motivation trajectories in the context of non-formal, digital learning opportunities. "We and all those involved in the project hope that as many participants as possible will take the time to answer the questionnaires and thus help us answer our research questions," says Maria Klose from the LIfBi research group. The time required for this is around ten minutes in each case. Participation is, of course, voluntary and it is not possible to draw any conclusions about personal data when processing and evaluating the answers.

You can join the OPEN vhb course at any time and free of charge. An overview of all course offerings and the option to register can be found at For registration, not more than first name, last name and an e-mail address is required.

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