Project based teaching as a tool for motivation in online education

Students, like all human beings, are inherently active and curious. The desire to learn something new, to explore and discover, is intrinsic to the nature of us all. Still, those of us who have been working in the field of teaching for a longer period of time have more than once witnessed students who seem to be completely disinterested from day one, or who lose interest during the course. And this was especially true as for Computer Science students who suddenly had to divert their attention from fascinating technical issues to ethical themes.

Back in 2002 I decided to try out a project from the real world, involving the serious and unpleasant topic of sexual abuse of children on Internet. The project was named “Getting involved” and we enlisted the cooperation of Save the Children Norway and the National Criminal Investigation Service.

There are many theories of what motivates people, but in this particular project the work on intrinsic motivation and self-determination by Deci and Ryan (1985) was central. Self-determination theory is an approach to human motivation and personality that investigates the basis for people’s self-motivation and personality integration (Ryan & Deci, 2000). As for learning outcome I related my definition of learning to Marton et al’s conception of learning as increasing one’s knowledge, with the main focus on broadening both students’ knowledge and awareness.


//Fighting child pornography: Exploring didactics and student engagement in social informatics//,
In Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Volume 58, Issue 3 (In English), 2007 (Level 2 publication)
(Cited by Quayle, E. in the chapter “Assessment of Internet sexual abuse”, In M.C. Calder (Ed) “Complete guide to sexual abuse assessments” (Second Edition). Lyme Regis: Russell House Publishing, 2009)


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