Mao Tse Tung said power grows out the barrel of a gun. Other people say the pen is mightier than the sword. And yet, if the pen is mightier than the sword, then why do actions speak louder than words?
Why do we try to persuade people with guns and pens and words and actions? We strive to influence the behavior of other people, because our personal health and happiness depends not only on our own actions, but also on the behavior of other people.
As teachers, we seek to influence the thoughts and behaviors of our students. If we believe in the importance and benefit of our content, then it is only natural that we share our passion with our students.
To convince people to become our students and to complete our courses, we must master two types of persuasion: macrosuasion and microsuasion.
Macrosuasion is our attempt to convince people our content is worth mastering and our course is the one they should take to master it. Microsuasion is our attempt to convince students to continue taking our course all the way to the end.
Our course description should describe benefits that students can derive from completing the course. It should state specific careers and social settings that require skills mastered during each lesson, as well as intrinsic rewards they will enjoy while taking our course.
We must establish our credibility. We need to provide a short summary of our professional experience as well as personal successes that pertain to the course design. We must also be certain that written content uses correct grammar and is free of errors.
Students must believe we are experts in our field. They must also trust us to give them accurate and unbiased information that will benefit them. If we do not establish ourselves and our content to be credible, then people will not be persuaded to become a student willing to follow our leadership.
Once someone decides to take our course, we can provide them with encouragement along their journey to mastery. To motivate our students, we need to arouse their curiosity and engage their imagination throughout each lesson.
We must challenge them intellectually and give them control over many aspects of their learning. We should offer students the opportunity to develop their innovation through competition and to maximize their human potential through cooperation.
We should reduce the steps a student must take to complete or repeat a common activity. This will limit time on a mundane task and allow them to focus on more interesting work. We can include reminders for students to finish lessons and praise for completing work.
We can provide ongoing information on their success as they move through our courses, by including feedback information students can use to check the accuracy of their work.
Our job as online educators is to create functioning tools that make students feel more efficient, productive and in control. Our content must also be relevant and tailored to their needs.
If we want to encourage our students to choose our course, then we must learn the art of persuasion. Like Mao Tse Tung, we can persuade people to take our course through the point of a gun, or we can persuade them by creating a course that is irresistibly attractive.
Fogg, B.J. “Motivating, Influencing, and Persuading users.” The Human-Computer-Interaction Handbook. Ed. Jacko, Julie A. Sears, Andrew. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003. Print