When creating online learning, the primary goal is to create a course or program that fosters "a continuing motivation to learn," which is defined by Maehr as "voluntary engagement in continuing to learn more about a given topic."
The complexity of human motivation makes it hard to find a one-solution-fits-all model for learners. However, the ARCS model establishes basic criteria an instructional designer can leverage to increase the potential for establishing learner motivation while reducing learner malaise, frustration, and/or dropout.
The ARCS model consists of these four components:
Consider the following tactics for each ARCS component. However, there is no substitute for proper analysis to uncover the motivational elements specific to your audience. Without that analysis, you are likely to include too many, too few, or wrong motivational elements.
Gain learner attention by integrating:
- High-resolution graphics
- Interactivity and animation
- Conflict and failure
- Problem-solving and inquiry
Provide relevance to the learner's situation:
- Describe clear goals that are consistent with learner expectations
- Connect content to the learner's prior experience and/or knowledge
- Include guided instruction and navigational systems (while allowing self-determination in the consumption of the content)
- Incorporate "authentic" activities based on learner's job or tasks
Make the learner feel confident and aware of learning outcomes:
- Communicate clear expectations for successful completion
- Teach to the learner's "Zone of Proximal Development" -- avoid tasks and/or activities that are too easy or too hard
- Include activities that require critical thinking and minimize guessing
- Provide positive and contextual feedback that emphasizes learner achievement
Design for happy learners by:
- Recognizing learner achievement through reward mechanisms and in-context encouragement
- Providing opportunities for the learner to apply what they're learning
- Designing the right amount of work for the subject material
- Creating consistency between the content and assessment mechanisms throughout the material
Also, consider these additional design strategies:
- Reduce the word count on the screen compared with printed or narrated text
- Improve the quality of quizzes (consider quizzes as a motivational tool)
- Incorporate more interactive elements
- Create an automatic messaging system triggered by learner progress that can send positive email providing encouragement, reminders, empathy, and advice.
- 1986. Maehr, M.L. The motivation factor: A theory of personal investment. Lexington Books.
- 2004. Keller, J.M. and Suzuki, K. Learner motivation and E-learning design: a multinationally validated process. Florida State University, USA, Iwate Prefectural University, Japan.