Bl∆nk is an online learning
platform aimed at training users to enter the web development and graphic
design industry. Based in part on MOOC models such as Codecademy and Duolingo,
Bl∆nk offers interactive, self-driven courses which guide the user along the
journey from basic elements of web design to backend web development. Targeted
at users in Appalachia looking to transition out of the coal mining industry, Bl∆nk
also offers on-site support through Bl∆nk Hubs which serve as communal spaces
for teaching and work. In doing so, Bl∆nk taps into strong community ties to
bolster commitment to its online learning model while tackling the challenge of
structural unemployment in the modern economy.


Users being the training process
with a simple signup and an upfront registration fee. In order to increase
commitment rather than induce market norms, the registration fee will be set
aside for significant rewards upon completion of the course: business registration,
guaranteed workspace in the Bl∆nk Hub, and a website. Using Fogg’s model for
behavioral change, this not only targets the motivational aspect as users have
not only a financial stake in completion of the courses, but also shifts the
focus from the market-normed “dollars per course missed” to the social-normed “employment
status”[1]. After registration, users complete a series of basic graphic design
and web development courses at home in order to familiarize themselves with the
platform and field. Once basic courses are completed, users then have the
option to complete intermediate courses in web-based graphic design as well as
coding for web applications in the Bl∆nk Hub [2]. Specific intermediate courses
will be displayed to the user based on performance times and completion of more
basic courses. The location-based learning serves three purposes. First, users
and Bl∆nk staff form a support community as projects become more complex.
Second, users must follow social-normed rather than market-normed behavior for
class completion and attendance as they are in a social space [3]. Third, users
become familiarized with the Bl∆nk Hub, which will serve as a springboard for
future development. After intermediate courses, users can choose to either
continue development with courses in backend coding or put together a capstone
team project. Finally, users are tasked with assembling a portfolio for
entering the freelance graphic design and web development market. Upon completion
of the portfolio, users will graduate and receive the rewards set aside at the
beginning of registration.

success of Bl∆nk relies not only on shifts from market-normed to social-normed
behaviors, a major challenge in attendance and completion rates for MOOCs, but
also on community investment. Realizing that most users are strongly invested
in their communities to avoid relocation for other jobs, Bl∆nk taps into the
locality through the idea of the Bl∆nk Hub. In addition to serving as a communal
learning space, the Bl∆nk Hub will also offer space to connect with alumni of
the program. In doing so, users should not only find motivation and triggers in
the form of learning how other users completed the process and possibly
competition, but also find tangible rewards in the form of possible leads and
recruitment to any design firms started by alumni of the program [3]. In the
end Bl∆nk’s model is to incorporate rather than replace existing community


[1] Fogg, B. J. A Behavioral Model for Persuasive Design