We think E-Learning is great. It’s cost-effective, time-efficient and ideal for delivering standardised training to huge groups of learners spanning even greater geographical areas. However, it does not come without its challenges. One of the key issues with E-Learning lies in its struggle to retain, engage and motivate learners. Today, we’ll tackle the topic of motivation, giving you sound advice and simple ideas to help you excite and motivate learners.
At some point in our education, we’ve all sat in a classroom or lecture hall, tuned out the voice of our teacher and let our thoughts drift off to other things. Many traditional classroom trainers find it difficult to recognise when students are there in person but not in mind. Often it is not until assessments are introduced that they discover whether learning has occurred or whether all of the knowledge they have so painstakingly put together and delivered has went in one ear and out the other.
With online learning, however, the difference is often much clearer. Learners who are not engaged or enthusiastic can be recognised easily because they simply close their browser and fail to complete their learning. A key worry faced by many E-Learning practitioners is whether or not E-Learners will be motivated enough to complete their programmes and have a greater understanding at the end.
Luckily for us, we are not the first people to face the challenge of E-Learner motivation. Today we’ll explore some tried and tested techniques for learner motivation and give you some advice to help you avoid common pitfalls. The ARCS model of Motivational Design by John Keller is a useful starting point for the basics of motivational theory in learning and can be applied to E-Learning. The model outlines four ways of motivating learners; Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction. We’ll cover each element in more detail now:
Attention: In order to motivate learners, it is important firstly to gain their attention. Keller proposes two main ideas for achieving this; through perceptual arousal or inquiry arousal. In other words, attracting learners’ attention by doing something out of the ordinary or else by appealing to their inquisitive nature.
Relevance: If learners are to deem content worthy of their attention and the application of their motivation, then the learning must be grounded in real life applicability. This can be achieved by giving examples of the learning’s relevance or even by profiling individuals who have already used the learning for their own betterment.
Confidence: By instilling a sense of achievability and by ensuring learners are aware that the work they put into learning will reap merit, it will give them reason to fully apply themselves. It’s important to map out the learning journey they are about to set out on, give guidance on how much work will be involved and directly link this to potential success.
Satisfaction: Each of us needs to feel like the efforts we are making are worthwhile if we are to continue to replicate them. If you are able to develop a meaningful rewards system for your learners, it will reinforce the relevance of their learning and recognise that their hard work has paid off, thus creating motivation for further learning.
Keller’s theory is easy to understand and for many L&D practitioners components of it may seem fairly obvious. However, often in practice many people deviate from these principles in favour of more superficial or gimmick-filled learning solutions. It is important both when planning your next E-Learning programme and also when assessing its success to consider whether it meets Keller’s four principles of motivation.
How can you avoid gimmicks and inspire real motivation?
In pursuit of the latest trend, it can be easy to get carried away and forget about the simple and effective ways of motivating learners. By adopting a range of intrinsic and extrinsic motivational techniques, you can expect to see more leaners completing your courses and applying the learning within your organisation. We’ve identified three areas where you should be particularly cautious:
Like many others in the industry, we’re excited about the rise of gamification in E-Learning. In our blog about the gamification of E-Learning in 2015, we predicted that it is to become more practical, more integrated, more fun and more common. Because of the hype created around gamification, however, many have raced to embrace it without fully understanding how to utilise it in a learning context. When we adopt superficial games with low relevance to learning content, we distract from learning instead of encouraging it. Our advice is to carefully consider how you can use game mechanics and gaming narratives to motivate your learners.
2. Badges and Reward Systems
A potentially useful way of motivating learners is through awarding badges or by developing a rewards system. It can serve as a form of intrinsic motivation by appealing to the learner’s sense of achievement and is useful as a type of extrinsic motivation because it can give the learner status amongst their peers or qualify them for a reward or promotion. The counterfeit cousin of a good reward system is one which recognises trivial achievements with meaningless rewards. In order to use badges and reward systems to truly motivate learners, it is essential that the achievements are tangible and worthy of recognition and that the rewards are meaningful and roughly equivalent to the amount of work the learner has put in.
The rapid advances within graphic design and constantly growing industry of web-design means that people are increasingly used to highly-stylised web-content with high-quality images and beautifully presented content. This is exciting because it means that we can produce digital learning that is easy on the eye and attention-grabbing. However, in order to maintain learners’ engagement and motivation, ensure that the instructional designer holds the reins in decisions about layout and that content design is not decided by graphic designers. The work of graphic designers should complement the aims of the instructional designer. For more advice on using graphics in E-Learning, download our recent infographic, The Six Golden Rules for Using Graphics in E-Learning.
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