Could Contests and Awards Be the Spark You Need to Ignite Your Online Learning Community? (PART 2)

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    As our blog evolves, we want to connect with our readers and get YOU involved in the process.  Feel free to e-mail to suggest topics that interest YOU!

    We’ve broken down our list of 101 Quick Ideas to Ignite your Online Learning Community (click on it to see the full list!) into bite-sized chunks that are easier to digest.  We are offering you a little taste of the seven part series that provides tips on igniting passion and sparking conversation in your personal online learning community.

    Contests and Awards

    There’s nothing like competition to place focus on any initiative. However, be careful because extrinsic rewards can be a double-edged sword. Social psychologists will often say that in order for rewards to encourage long-lasting attitudinal and behavioral change, extrinsic motivational must eventually be replaced by intrinsic motivation. In other words, community members should eventually participate in the community not because they want to win a reward, but because they want to participate for participation’s sake. Focus on small incentives more often for being helpful and creative. Here are some ideas to help you.

    Helium balloons (version 1) – For each new post, the author gets to float a helium balloon above their desk. First to 11 wins a prize. With helium balloons floating everywhere, you bet that the learning community will stay top-of-mind.

    Top contributor (number of posts) – This contest is better to be held monthly or quarterly because of the average posts/person in a week is too low. Many organizations actually have “contribution” as a measurement on performance reviews. Bloomfire makes it easy to get that metric.

    Most helpful post – Every week or month, a small panel (not a single person) judges posts based on a pre-existing definition of what “helpful” is. Be sure that every community member knows ahead of time what the definition is. One possible definition may be the type of organizational impact the post might make (could be big).

    Most creative post – Similar to the above—just be sure to define what “creative” means. If the winner digs public recognition, put the person on a pedestal and make him or her a model for what great looks like. Maybe one way to do that is to feature the person in your organization’s monthly newsletter.

    Best production value – Have your panel define and publish a scorecard for production value, and judge posts once a week or once a month. Although we propose that “gd enuf is good enough” we do appreciate what production value can do for learner buy-in. Besides, it’s fun to play director.

    Most viewed post – This one’s easy—Bloomfire keeps track of view counts for every post. Remember, in a voluntary (as opposed to mandatory) initiative such as an online learning community, views = activity = interest = impact. Sometimes, a voluntary initiative is more effective than a mandatory initiative because people learn when they are ready to learn, not when we are ready to teach them.

    Most commented-on post – Because we learn better when we are more involved, a post that generates debate and conversation helps the participants learn. Such a post benefits the entire community and sucks members into the conversation. Besides, Bloomfire keeps track of comment counts, making this idea very easy to execute.

    Most followers – Depending on your organization and its culture, this idea may or may not be the best fit. Bloomfire’s follow feature is not meant to facilitate popularity contests—it’s meant to provide a simple way for members to subscribe to other members’ new content. Use your best judgment.

    Most views across all of a member’s contributions – Bloomfire makes this an easy metric to chase down in the Analytics page.

    Most collaborative office/team/group – If your organization uses multiple Bloomfires—maybe one for your west coast office and another for your east coast office—why not pit them against each other for a great cause? Be sure that your judging panel publishes a scorecard for collaboration before the contest begins.

    Rockstar Teacher Award – Announce the criteria for winning this award (could be a combination of view count, comment count, and the other items listed above), and then snap a photo of the winner—preferably wearing a Mohawk wig and leather jacket. Showcase the photo on your Wall of Fame. If people are smiling and talking about your initiative, this word-of-mouth can help your learning community gain traction.

    Post up stars for each post – Remember when your primary school teacher would award you a gold star every time you did something great? Give community members something to display every time they post something new. Make it fun (and maybe even kind of dorky): unicorns, rainbows, gems, four-leaf clovers, and Charlie Browns are all fair game. Not only will these items be a visual reminder of the community, but they can also be a fun way to recognize status and reputation.

    Top Learner – Learning is great, so set an example by rewarding the top learner and reinforce the value of the community. Bloomfire’s analytics feature makes it dead simple to find the top learner.

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