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4 Top Ways to Intrinsically Motivate Your Learners in eLearning

“Meaningful work is driven by intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivation.”Fast Company

No matter how on-the-point your training or how amazing the quality of your eLearning courses might be, your learners will not plunge into learning unless and until they really want to. This is why motivating them to learn is important. Motivating your learners enables them to take up the course without the need of pushing them to do so.

Types of Motivation

Let’s take a closer look at the two different types of motivation – Extrinsic and Intrinsic.

Extrinsic Motivation

According to Yu-Kai Chou, the author of ‘Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards’, extrinsic motivation is motivation derived from a ‘goal, purpose, or reward.’ Remember those employees who are keen on working just to get a better hike? That is the perfect example of being extrinsically motivated.

Let us look at another example. Let‘s say learners will be rewarded with a badge or a trophy that will be displayed on their dashboards once they complete a course. If the learner is completing the course with the intention to grab those badges and trophies, it is because they are motivated extrinsically. It is not the course in itself, but the rewards they are going to attain that are motivating them to take the course.

Intrinsic Motivation

According to Yu Kai-Chou, intrinsic motivation is the motivation one gets by ‘inherently enjoying the task itself.’ Let’s take the example of a karaoke bar here. It’s because you love to sing that you go to a karaoke bar and sing. At times you even pay to sing. There is clearly no competition, or any rewards being given out, yet you sing since you enjoy doing the task itself.

Also think of those employees who actually perform well in your workplace because they love their job role or are passionate about contributing toward the organization’s goals. This is what intrinsic motivation is all about.

Why Should You Intrinsically Motivate Your Learners?

Since extrinsic motivation is all about receiving rewards and incentives, they tend to last only for a short span of time. But intrinsic motivation is something that will last for a long time and motivate learners to take up learning seriously. However, the reason we find most organizations leaning toward extrinsically motivating their employees is due to the fact that motivating individuals intrinsically is hard.

Yes, it’s not an easy job. But with eLearning, it’s very much possible!

How Can We Intrinsically Motivate Learners with eLearning?

1. Appreciate Learners

It’s human nature to do better when we are being appreciated. In classroom training, the instructor can provide direct feedback and also appreciate learners when they do well. But this is not the case with eLearning. Hence, you need to ensure that you provide constructive feedback within the course. This will give learners a sense of personal achievement, allowing them to learn from their mistakes rather than get offended by them. 

Tips to deliver effective constructive feedback

  • Ensure feedback does not comprise just bland statements saying ‘No! You are wrong!’ or ‘Yes! You are right’. Instead, make it encouraging using phrases such as ‘Keep it up!’, ‘Almost there!’.
  • Always explain why a choice is wrong or right rather than simply stating they are right or wrong.
  • Ensure feedback is tied to the learning objective.
  • Don’t just restrict feedback to text. Use audio and video too.
  • Use graphical representations such as smileys.

2. Give Them Control Over Learning

According to Adult Learning Principles, adults are known to be self-paced. This is what giving control to the learner is all about. While a few might be able to understand the content on a single go, there might be others who might need some more time to understand. Thus, expecting your learners to sit and complete the eLearning course at one go is something not practical at all.

You need to provide them the control and freedom to pace through the course however they want to. Providing them this control will definitely motivate them intrinsically.

Tips to provide control over learning

  • Divide the course into various modules with each module focusing on one single learning objective. This lets learners know ‘what’s in it for them’.
  • Ensure the navigation is free and not forced – so that learners can visit the sections they are interested in.
  • Ensure content caters to three types of learners – visual (videos, images), auditory (podcasts, audio narration) and kinesthetic (interactivities, simulations).

 3. Use a Variety of Formats

One of the best ways to intrinsically motivate learners is by engaging them and providing them visually appealing content. And eLearning indeed has a wide variety of digital formats that can be used within courses! From images to videos to scenarios, an eLearning course can be made appealing to our sensory organs, intrinsically motivating learners to come back and take up the course. 

How to use digital formats

  • Use videos to convey a great deal of information in a short span of time.
  • Use simulations to impart practical knowledge and hands-on experience.
  • Use games to make learning fun.
  • Use scenarios to build decision-making skills.
  • Use Virtual Reality (VR) to allow learners to interact with a virtual world.
  • Use microlearning assets.

4. Instill Curiosity

“Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning,” said the prominent writer, William Arthur Ward. Indeed, it is. It’s the human nature of being curious that motivates us to gain new knowledge and learn. Instilling curiosity can be the perfect way to intrinsically motivate learners too.

One of the best ways to do this in an eLearning course is by using branching scenarios. Branching scenarios are all about challenging learners by asking them to make decisions, and letting them experience the consequences. Each consequence produces new challenges and more choices. As the learner makes decisions, the story unfolds in unpredictable ways, instilling curiosity.

Other ways to instill curiosity in learners

  • Question their current assumptions.
  • Build an online forum enabling them to discuss.
  • Provide a video teaser of course prior to delivering the course.
  • Deliver pre-assessments prior to delivering a course. 

The Only Type Of Motivation That Leads To Success”, reads the headline of an article on intrinsic motivation by Fast Company. I could totally agree with this and after reading this blog, I’m sure you would too. Hence keep these strategies in mind and ensure you add an element of intrinsic motivation in your eLearning courses.

As an eLearning professional I’m sure you would love to know other ways you can make your eLearning journey hassle-free. Download this free eBook to gain access to 32 such eHacks!

The State of Learning: 2023 and Beyond