Student’s don’t do Optional…but they will do Options

As an instructor and a student I know that optional work is not something I get excited about. Well, maybe I do because I have the choice to not do it and lighten my work load. From a student perspective, optional means it will not hurt my grade if I don’t do it. I have discovered that optional opens up a world of motivation.

Options are important

How often are we given a task in which we don’t have a choice whether or not we do it? (Let’s discuss how much fun I had folding laundry last night because it wasn’t an option with more laundry in the dryer and no baskets to put it in). As an instructor is there a way we can give projects or assignments, but give an option? Of course! Conversations about the diverse group of incoming students continue to grow each semester. So why not cater to each learning style? Many of my students are visual learners (as am I); however, I realized that many of the returning adults are often coming from drastically different careers. In order for everyone to succeed, options are key.

“Why not cater to each learning style?”

Where do I start?

Our team wanted to test this idea out, so we started with an audio recording class. The final project required students to recreate an old time radio show. This showcased their editing and recording skills in the software they have been learning all semester. Let’s just say not everyone was thrilled about “acting,” which was reflected in the final product.

The fix? Options

Here are the options we gave to our audio students:

Option 1: Old Time Radio Show
We still offer this project as many found this to be a great experience and allowed them to collaborate with other students and work on their editing skills.

Option 2: Music Show
Others were more successful working on their own so we offered an option to cater to those students. This option catered to the creative students.

Option 3: Talk Show
The final option catered to the creative students who wanted to collaborate and create content.

Higher level of motivation = higher level of retention.

Even though the criteria for each is different, each option requires the same amount of work. This means the students are in control of what they want to achieve from the project all while having fun. We have received an incredible amount of positive feedback on this project along with a higher level of excitement! Not too shabby considering most students stress and grumble with their end of semester projects. Some students have even asked if they can do both! Sure…but I am only grading one!

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