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Motivating Students With A Comittment Contract


What if we were to borrow an idea described in this study where the goal was to get employees to exercise more:


...some workers were offered a “commitment contract”: they could set aside their own money that would be released to them only if they worked out over the next two months; otherwise, it would be given away to charity...Even though those commitment contracts ended three months after the start of the study, the effects on workout frequency persisted for years: three years after the study, the workers who had been offered the contracts remained 20 percent more likely to work out.

Since students don't typically have money to set aside in this way, how about this:


    • At the start of the semester, instructors put an assignment in their syllabus called "Study Time" and make it worth 20% of students' final grades.
    • On day 1 everybody gets an A on this assignment.
    • Then: throughout the semester, instructors monitor student activity in their online study tool (say MindTap).
    • If a student completes X amount of activity per week in the tool, they keep their A for this portion of the grade
    • Each week students do NOT do the activity they lose, say, a half letter grade from their "study time" grade.

An instructor could calculate students' grades on "Study Time" at the end of the semester, but wouldn't it be more motivating if at the end of every week the student received a notification like:


  • "You kept your [current grade] in Study Time!" or
  • "You lost a half letter grade in Study Time this week! Your grade is now ____"

Just riffing on this idea...thoughts @essie_childers@MarkL@Audrey_Wick?


Great Idea! This is excellent for participation grade in an online course too. Or it could be beneficial as an option for instructor choices for a department structured course.

Rajone A. Lyman, M.Ed.

 Hi Michael,


Sorry to respond so late; I missed seeing your post.


I like the idea and think the badges or stickers would internally motivate students. However, it may be difficult to keep track of which students missed a week or two. If students knew they could receive an, "A" if selected MindTap assignments were complete, I believe they would be motivated to complete them.




Hi Michael ~


I like this idea but agree with Essie it may be a challenge to manage.  Maybe MindTap could include this type of grading activity so the system could manage this grade.  As instructors we could add assignments or readings to an area for this activity or it could be based on students spending time or interacting in MindTap.  We may have to consider how to prevent students from cheating the system.


I like this idea!

Joan ~