e-Learning Design – The Basics of Motivation - 16 May 2016

When designing an e-learning course, you must consider content in addition to appearance. Both of these need to inspire motivation in a learner in order to keep their attention focused on working through a course, and not simply skimming the content in the hope that they finish it early. When looking at what keeps your learners motivated, you need to use the ARCS model, originally published in 1987. This study outlines the four basic elements of motivation that need to be considered in any e-learning course design.



Attention is key to any e-learning course, because if a course can’t hold a learner’s attention, they won’t learn anything. Employing attention-grabbing mechanics such as animation, storytelling, and emotional stimuli are all ways in which course design can be changed to hold a learner’s attention from start to finish in an e-learning course.



Stating the relevance of a course is difficult for any e-learning designer. Most simply believe that because a learner’s job requires them to complete the course is enough. However, this isn’t enough to motivate most leaners. Making it clear at the beginning of a course why it’s important to the learner that they should complete it, in a way that is relevant to them, will motivate them far more than simply stating completion is a requirement for their work.



Confidence is extremely important to a learner’s motivation. If a learner feels they won’t be able to complete a course, they won’t be motivated to finish or even attempt a course. Making it clear in the first page of a course how long it will take for a learner to complete it, or at least each section, will make it seem far more achievable to them, and increase their motivation levels going forward.



It’s hard to get across what a learner will achieve from completing a course. However, it’s important to give them some kind of recognition for completion, as this will encourage them to continue working through further courses. Certificates, recognition verbally from a superior, or a completed step on the road to a promotion are all ways in which to encourage learners after they complete every course.


One final note on motivation is the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within a learner (pleasure of morality), and extrinsic motivation comes from without (rewards, promotions, punishments, or grading). It’s been found that intrinsic motivation is far more effective at achieving on-going motivation in learners than extrinsic, meaning any way the design of a course can encourage intrinsic motivation is going to achieve a better learner response than a course without it.

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