Motivational Information Systems: What's it to you?

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Presentation Title

So, What's My Motivation? Students Barrel Towards Success!

Abstract / Session Overview

We often work to improve our content and pedagogy, but what about improving students' desire to engage and learn? That's where a Motivational Information System (MIS) comes in! MISs draw on principles of gamification, dashboard design, and motivation theory to help students WANT to learn. Come learn how our research has dramatically decreased withdrawals, failures, and dropouts and increased learning using an LTI Canvas plugin!



Student completion is crucial. Consider the following:

  • Though more and more courses move online, low-income and under-prepared students can have withdrawal rates that are 10-15% higher in online courses
  • About 25% of students enrolled in 2010 were still not graduated by 2016 at many universities
  • Dropout rates for undergraduate degrees can be as high as 41% at some universities
  • About 2 million students dropout each year with school-loan debt
  • People without a degree make $17,500 less annually, $1 million less over their lifetime; and they are twice as likely to be unemployed
  • Many legislators are making academic outcomes, like completion, a priority and a measure of institutional success; they want to know that public funds are making a difference
  • As an institution, we have a responsibility to promote our students’ success!


Improving completion rates in classes that have been historically low has proven difficult. Most efforts focus on changes in course content or pedagogy. Yet, expending significant resources and time on a class often results in little improvement in withdrawals, failures, and/or dropouts.

We need new and more effective approaches to lowering withdrawal, failure, and dropout rates and improving student performance. One place to start is by challenging the assumptions about why students fail. We frequently attribute poor performance in a class to the assumption that:

  • Students don't have the ability to do well, or
  • That the course content and pedagogy design aren't effective enough.


The research around educational motivational information (EMI) systems suggests that many students perform poorly because they are not motivated or engaged in a course. Simply speaking, they don’t feel a desire to perform, so they don’t. EMI systems draw upon principles of gamification, information design theory, dashboard design theory, and motivational psychology to improve academic outcomes like withdrawals, failures, dropouts, and performance. EMI systems focus on providing students with information in five important areas often neglected when trying to improve academic outcomes:

  1. Supporting autonomy
  2. Acknowledging and promoting feelings of success
  3. Creating meaningful interactions
  4. Building feelings of urgency
  5. Making performance fun!

By surfacing this information in a course, EMI systems promote student motivation and engagement that in turn improve academic outcomes.


One example at UVU of the effectiveness of EMI systems is TECH 1010. TECH 1010 is a high enrollment gateway course that has historically failed more than 1 in 5 students over the past several years. Using an EMI named Delphinium, we conducted a study with 8 control and 4 treatment sections. In the study, using an EMI resulted in a 47% drop in failures, about a 67% drop in withdrawals and dropouts, and a 10% improvement in performance. In another course, CHEM 1010, we have been able to increase the number of A’s by 133%! These are dramatic results that we would like to extend to many courses and institutions.

Learn More!

Attend our session Wed Jul 10 @ 4:20 PM in Long Beach Convention Center, 201 B to learn more about how our research has dramatically decreased withdrawals, failures, and dropouts and increased learning using an LTI Canvas plugin! Visit to learn more about Delphinium, a turn key motivational information system solution for Canvas.315390_pastedImage_1.png


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InstructureCon 2019

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