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Designing eLearning to Motivate

Motivation – it is crucial for getting anyone to do just about anything. Motivation is the reward, the benefit of completing whatever activity might be in question. It’s the carrot on the stick. The problem for course designers and developers is that motivation can be in short supply when it comes to eLearning, especially if the content is not inherently interesting to begin with.

If a learner has little or no interest in the material covered by the course, their only motivation might be the desire to get through as quickly as possible and finish with the content so they can get back to doing something they actually enjoy. That is definitely not a good situation, and not one that lends itself to information retention. Thankfully, there are ways to improve motivation for learners. Here are just a few of them.

Be Immediately Relevant

Learners have little patience for content that wastes their time. They want to know the value of the content, and they want to know it right now. Designers must focus on creating course content that offers immediate relevance to the learner, and his or her real-world life. If the course content can be applied immediately to the workplace or another area in a learner’s real life, it will motivate them to continue.

Let Them Test Out

Even the most motivated of learners just want to be done with the course so they can handle other obligations and responsibilities. Accommodate this desire by allowing them to test out. Learners should be able to take an assessment test, and if they pass, skip the course and either move to the next one or be done.


Learners like to feel that they have some measure of control over their environment. Designers can foster this sense of control by allowing at least some measure of self-guided study through the course or curriculum. By providing options and letting learners choose their path forward, it becomes easier to motivate them to complete everything. Using the Thiagi 4-Door model in your elearning is a great way to organize your content that allows your learner to choose what order they want to experience it.

Use Gamification

Not only do adults like to play games, adding learning games or game-like elements to a course can help ensure that your learners stay motivated, and that learning happens when their minds are engaged.

Design for User Experience

Yes, this is a learning course, but it is important to design it for user experience, not just information retention. Consider the "wow factor", in that as long as something in your course that gives your learner an experience they will want to remember later, it will also help them recall the content.

Tell Them Why

Often, learners simply need to know why a course is needed for motivation to happen. If they are presented with the benefits and advantages, many learners will happily move ahead and complete their studies. Tell them why upfront and make sure that those reasons apply to learners’ real-world needs.

Motivating learners does not have to be a struggle. Above all, ensure that the course is engaging, visually appealing, has a good flow, and offers clear benefits for your intended audience. Contact us to see if we can help you turn your content into an elearning course that can deliver on all these qualities!

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