In 2012 E-learning was exploding. It was Coursera, the shining new education platform that made people go raving about the revolution of online learning. Coursera is indeed amazing. It hosts hundreds of various courses, taught by leaders in their field, and all for free. But as exciting as it is, this is yet to be titled a revolution. It turns out that MOOCs (Massive online course) completion rates are below 13% and even the best tutors with the best videos are not enough to motivate users over a period of time. The question is… is motivating students over time really possible in online form?

Motivation and Ability

The prerequisites of learning is motivation and ability. I find both factors to be in the learning platform’s (the tutor) responsibility as much as they are in the students’. The tutor has to be always motivating and to make sure that the subject matter is within the student’s ability. This is not an easy thing to do when planning a course for tens of thousands of users with different backgrounds, skills and language. Even more so, how can an online platform be motivating?

One Month

A good example for a motivating EDU platform is One Month. One Month is a “for dummies” education platform, offering various courses spanning from teaching code in Ruby on Rails, to growth hacking and UX design. In One Month’s own words:

What if you could learn anything in one month? With lightweight, self-paced online courses you can finish in 30 days with just 15 minutes a day.

This promise is a big boost for motivation and ability. First off, One Month subject matters offer concrete goals. This is no “code 101” but “Learn Ruby on Rails in one month”. The user knows exactly what she is enrolling to and what is the expected result. The rest of the sentence, “finish in 30 days with just 15 minutes a day”, is about ability. Accessibility, to be exact. Studying is a time consuming thing. Many people just don’t have the time to learn and won’t commit for a course that demands longer studying hours. 15 minutes a days sounds appealing and accessible to most.

Hacking Into Motivation

After enrolling to one of One Month courses, the platform presents the user with two very clever requests. First, it asks the user to tweet that she had started learning. The justification for this is that when committing in public, one has more chance to fulfil this commitment. The side effect is of course, a free tweet in favor of One Month. The second hack, is a 25% discount offer for a friend to join. Studying together is clearly more effective than learning solo and this offer creates another strong selling point for One Month.

Hacking Into Ability

One month teaching method is bite sized, 15 minutes per day video lessons, accompanied with the student’s own code writing. This has a few clear benefits:

  1. Frequent and small learning per day can make studying with One Month a daily habit.
  2. Completing missions in One Month is fairly easy as the user is literally being told what to write. This gives the user a rewarding satisfaction of progress.

The downside, of course, is that this method creates a complete dependency on One Month tutors. Studying for independent thinking requires more than 15 minutes a day. 15 minutes a day might also evoke a psychological phenomenon called “self licensing”: Letting ourselves do bad after we did good. Like eating a huge hamburger after working out. A user, feeling great for studying her daily 15 minutes, might not continue studying the actual time needed for being a proficient developer.

Is One Month The Future of Online Learning?

Hard to say, but it is definitely a part of it. My assumption is that One Month’s course completion rates are way better than Coursera’s. But this has a lot to do with the fact that users pay $75-$99 per course. Fewer students, who have invested resources, equals better completion rates. But the real question is, how effective are One Month courses? Does a One Month grad have enough knowledge and motivation to keep on honing her skills? What do you think is the best way to motivate people to learn online? Jot it down, I’d love to hear from you.

Originally published at on March 24, 2015.

Game Designer, Product designer, Speaker, Blogger

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