Initroducing Chapter 1 of My New "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY" book

September 18, 2014

Introducing Chapters from the TEC-VARIETY Book One Day at a Time:

Listed at the bottom of this blog post is a recap of the Bonk book blogging of "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY" so far.

This is Day Two of Blogging ("Chapter One: Introducing TEC-VARIETY")
As I announced back on July 24, 2014 (2 months ago), my new book, written with Dr. Elaine Khoo from the University of Waikato, was published in May 2014 (though a prepublication version was posted online 3 months earlier). It is titled: "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online." Three years in the making (actually 15 years), I am delighted to bring it to you for free! It is open access.

As I mentioned, during the next few weeks, I will be offering sample paragraphs from the start of each chapter; one per day so stay tuned my friends. Again, I want to remind you that the entire book is free as a PDF document at the book homepage and so are each of the 15 chapters. To date, more than 21,500 people have downloaded the book and over 13,000 have downloaded specific chapters. You can also find a link to the book from my personal homepage.

This is an experiment in self-publishing. I used Amazon CreateSpace. I also used my book publishing website which I forgot that I owned. My amazing son Alex did the book cover. If interested, you can purchase paperback or softcover versions of this book for under $15 USD in Amazon and for the Kindle for under $10 USD via Amazon.

See below for a opening part of Chapter One Introducing TEC-VARIETY. Elaine and I hope that you enjoy the book. Below is the section of the book that I am sharing today. I hope to share a portion of Chapter 2 on Saturday after class and even more of it in the coming days and weeks.

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Chapter One Introducing TEC-VARIETY (Note: this is just the first six paragraphs as another a teaser or tickler).

Doyou want to know who you are?
Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
—Thomas Jefferson

There comes a moment when you just know the time is ripe to push into an area. Today that area happens to be motivation and retention in online learning. Some might argue that the need for such a book was already apparent more than a decade ago. Online learning exploded in the late 1990s, especially for those in adult sectors like higher education, corporate training, and the military (Allen & Seaman, 2004, 2007, 2010b, 2014). The K–12 sector, in contrast, heated up much more recently (Picciano & Seaman, 2008; Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp, and colleagues at Evergreen Education Group, 2010; Watson, 2007). Research conducted at the turn of the century, including that by Bonk, revealed enormous online drop-out rates. In higher education settings, it was not unusual to hear about the loss of 20–30 percent of enrolled students (Bonk, 2002a). That percentage would often double in the world of corporate and military training (Bonk, 2002b; Frankola, 2001a). These data were troubling. What was happening to cause so many individuals to give up their quest to learn online? And what could be done about it?

The common refrain was that there was little engagement within online courses. Students would complete assigned tasks similar to those given in a correspondence or television course and wait for feedback or comments from the instructor. For many, there were technical barriers and problems that surfaced even before they could enter the online course. Once they surmounted such challenges, they had to figure out what was expected and when. The directions for all this were often sketchy and assumed a level of online technology prowess that few had.

Overcoming such issues was not particularly easy. Making matters worse, all that your technology access got you was a stamp on your ticket to the online learning club. Then it came time for completing your assigned tasks and submitting them. Unlike traditional classrooms, there were often no peers to run ideas by, remind each other of upcoming tasks, or discuss and debate ideas with. Given that online learning was so new for everyone involved, there were limited examples of prior work and minimal job aids for completing tasks. Compounding such problems, most online content was severely lacking in quality.

For those who persisted with their online learning quests, there were few learning enticements in those early online learning days. Online courses typically provided limited goals or products to strive toward. When there was a goal, there was a highly constrained or unclear audience for learners’ work. Who would be providing feedback on students’ final products? Too often, little such feedback came. There was much irony here given that, unlike in F2F settings, students working in online or blended courses expected feedback on everything they posted to the Web. This was somewhat of a revelation for those accustomed to teaching in traditional, walled classrooms. Those with experience teaching correspondence courses or with tutoring students might not have been so shell-shocked. But most were not adequately prepared for this brave new online learning world.

Suffice it to say, without feedback or comparison points, online students were uncertain of their learning progress. They were in a state of learning limbo. As Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura (1986, 1997) might say, there was scant opportunity to develop students’ self-efficacy as online learners. Part of the problem was that there were few benchmarks to which to compare their performance. And when there was a target, they were often told that they were lacking in some skill or competency and could not pass on to the next level. Such gated learning communities with limited forms of feedback were especially prevalent in military and government training settings (Bonk, Olson, Wisher, & Orvis, 2002).
Given this situation, it was no small wonder that there were quite hearty student drop-out numbers and plenty of other problems in those early years. Of course, these were just a few of the barriers and challenges facing online learners. Further fuel for the online retention travesty was the general lack of instructor and student training for such environments. Add to that, poorly designed courses, insufficient or inept strategic planning, and constantly changing demands and expectations, and much could and did go wrong in those early online courses. Still, the hype bandwagon kept playing the all-too-familiar songs,...(see free book for more...)
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Note: for the rest of Chapter One and the entire Adding Some TEC-VARIETY book, you can find it FREELY available (and the entire book as well at the book homepage or you can purchase it via Amazon. Comments and questions are always welcome as are stories and examples of how you use the ideas in the book (just write to: curt at 

Bonk book blogging so far:
1. Announcing the Adding Some TEC-VARIETY book, July 24, 2014.
2. Introducing the Preface, September 18, 2014.

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