motivation in eLearning graphicIn last week’s blog, Understanding Motivation in Adult Learners, we discussed the components of motivation and some of the obstacles of motivating adult learners. This week, we’ll explore a couple of motivation theories, then consider strategies for using these theories to design impactful elearning. Increasing learner engagement and satisfaction can be as simple as incorporating motivation into elearning design.

Knowing what motivates learners and how to incorporate motivation into course design is a critical component of creating engaging courses. At Kinetic, we use the principles of self-determination theory and flow theory to create inspiring and engaging courses that learners enjoy completing—and you can, too. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each and how to incorporate motivation into course design to improve learner outcomes.

Self-Determination Theory
Self-determination theory suggests that people are motivated to grow and change by innate psychological needs. The theory identifies three critical psychological needs that are believed to be both intrinsic and universal:

  1. The need for competence: master tasks and learn new skills
  2. The need for connectedness: a sense of belonging and community with others
  3. The need for autonomy: control over their behaviors and goals

The concept of intrinsic motivation, or engaging in activities for the inherent rewards of the act itself, plays a vital role in self-determination theory.

By applying the principles of this theory, you can create courses that appeal to the basic needs of your learners. When applied correctly, learners will respond based on their innate tendencies. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Competence: Adult learners want to feel valued and competent at performing their jobs. Create courses that instill this confidence in the learner by building their competency and allowing them to prove their competence through activities and assessments that increase in difficulty as the learner demonstrates proficiency. Avoid “gotcha questions” (or trick questions) in assessments; they are detrimental to building confidence and undermine competence.
  • Connectedness: It’s human nature to want to belong. Create an online community for your learners to allow them to connect with others, share experiences, and encourage each other.
  • Autonomy: Freedom is such a powerful desire that humans are compelled time and time again to fight for it. Don’t fight your learners. Provide learners the ability to make choices and incorporate feedback and opportunities; self-correction will result in more eager learners.

The more adult learners grow in each of the areas—competence, connectedness, and autonomy—the more self-directed they will become.

Flow Theory
Sports psychologists have extensively researched what players experience when they are “in the zone” and how they achieve this state of peak performance. While most of us aren’t professional athletes, you can likely recall a time that you felt unstoppable when accomplishing a goal or a time when everything just made sense and felt effortless. These are examples of flow theory. So, how do we help our learners get there?

In elearning, being in flow happens when the learner is fully present, engaged in charting their own path, and able to absorb the information that will help them complete tasks within the course successfully. This approach to elearning design gives the learner both autonomy and confidence, which we know are critical components of self-determination or intrinsic motivation. You can help learners get in the zone by including access to more in-depth content that supports advanced learning, incorporating choices that allow the learner to discover, and building in opportunities to advance rapidly through portions of the course that contain information they already know.

Join us again next week for more tips and strategies for incorporating motivation into elearning design. In the meantime, if you’re hungry for more, check out these articles and resources on motivation:
The Psychology and Theory Behind Flow –
4 Reasons Good Employees Lose Their Motivation – Harvard Business Review

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