Reinforcement is a consequence that will strengthen and encourage certain behavior in the future by providing rewarding stimuli, stimuli associated with wanting and liking. It’s the act of rewarding the desired behavior in individuals when it occurs, so that said behavior is likely to be repeated. Positive reinforcement typically involves specific stimuli such as rewards, recognition, praise, appreciation and compensation. When used correctly, The Reinforcement Model helps to motivate, inspire and engage your learners.
The Reinforcement Model refers to positive reinforcement, not negative. The key difference being that positive reinforcement presents a rewarding stimuli to a learner after a behavior is completed. Negative reinforcement removes a positive stimuli when a negative behavior is expressed. This still, is not to be confused with punishment, which introduces a negative stimuli to discourage negative behavior. All three processes are related but distinctly different.
Positive reinforcement in eLearning is a powerful tool to improve learning outcomes. Though there are endless ways in which to introduce this concept, when doing so, it’s best to keep the following best practices in mind:
Praise is a common stimulus used in positive reinforcement. For learners, it’s most potent in personalized form. Though praising an entire group works, focusing on specifics and zeroing in on exactly what an individual has done well works best.
For The Reinforcement Model to be effective, the reward stimuli must be given immediately after the desired behavior occurs. There must be a strong correlation built between the specific, desired action and the reward so that learners can create a strong link in their own minds.
The Element of Surprise
The quickest way to dull the effectiveness of The Reinforcement Model is to use rewards so often that they come to be expected. The element of surprise is motivating, and well-considered rewards and praise are more meaningful. Once a learner expects the reward, it becomes less motivating.
The Drive of Recognition
Humans love competition, it’s exciting, invigorating and engaging. We are motivated by excelling in anything and even more motivated by being recognized and appreciated for excelling. Creating a secondary source of recognition and appreciation through reward systems or leaderboards (as are common in gamification) adds another level of motivation to learners.
Engaging and motivating learners should be an important focus in any eLearning platform. The Reinforcement Model is a great way to do just that. The key is deploying it effectively and knowing when and how to provide the crucial reward stimuli. When building this model into your eLearning, keep in mind that the reward stimuli are most effective when dispensed on a personalized level, immediately after desired behavior occurs and as a surprise that learners cannot come to expect.
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