Understanding Motivation graphicIf you find yourself wondering how to motivate adult learners and maintain engagement with a remote audience, you’re not alone, and you’ve come to the right place. Motivating online learners is key to creating a successful web-based training program—and something we engineer into every program we develop. Motivation is multifaceted, so we’ve broken it down into a series of three easily digestible posts: Understanding Motivation in Adult Learners, Using Motivation in eLearning, and Tips to Increase Motivation. We will share our secrets today and the next two Mondays in a three-part blog series about motivating adult learners. Today, we are focusing on understanding motivation in adult learners.

What is Motivation?
Motivation is the process that initiates, directs, and maintains goal-oriented behavior. Simply put, motivation is the “why” that propels you to take action, whether it is obtaining a degree to qualify for a job or getting a glass of water to quench your thirst. It’s truly at the heart of why we do what we do.

Motivation consists of three parts: activation, persistence, and intensity.

  1. Activation is setting the goal and initiating the behavior, such as enrolling in a spin class because you want to lose 20 lbs. or registering for an online course to learn a new skill. The initial activation is the easiest part of motivation, but achieving the goal requires persistence and intensity.
  2. Persistence is the most challenging component of motivation, because it involves overcoming obstacles and is influenced by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Anyone who has ever turned an obstacle into an excuse not to do something (such as the instructor cancelling spin class, meaning you can’t work out on that given day) understands how difficult persistence can be.
  3. Intensity is the strength of the belief that an action or series of actions directly correlates to achieving a goal. A learner who wants a pay raise and firmly believes that completing an online training course will result in a raise will pursue the completion of the course with more vigor than a learner who is uncertain that completing the training will result in a raise.

Motivation in Adult Learning
A growing body of research about elearning sites a lack of motivation as the main reason learners fail to complete courses. In the classroom, instructors typically know how to motivate learners, but the same is rarely true in an online environment. And at Kinetic, we see this every day. Our team has been developing elearning courses for adult learners for more than 20 years. Passive training courses without proper motivation simply won’t be utilized, but once motivation is incorporated, completion rates often more than double.

In general, adult learners aren’t as motivated to learn a new skill or to change their behavior as young learners, so you’re already facing a challenge when working with an adult audience. In addition, some of the most common obstacles to motivation include:

  • Time limitations: Learners who are already overwhelmed with their workload find it nearly impossible to prioritize learning over what is in front of them.
  • Mandatory courses: Adult learners do not appreciate being dictated and often lack the motivation to complete mandatory courses unless it directly aligns with their goals.
  • Past experiences: Learners who have had bad or ineffective training experiences in the past may assume that this experience will be the same.
  • Poor communication: When learners do not understand how they will benefit from training, it can be difficult to find the motivation to complete the courses.

While knowing the obstacles that exist is essential to understanding the challenge at hand, motivation is impossible to achieve if you cannot identify and address the “why” for the learner. In next week’s blog, Using Motivation in eLearning, we will dive into motivation theories and how these theories can be used to create courses that engage and persuade your audience to learn.

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