How to Motivate Adult Learners in an Online Learning Environment?

How to Motivate Adult Learners in an Online Learning Environment?

“Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes.” By Benjamin Franklin (Politician, Writer, Scientist)

Motivation is the driving force that makes people act accordingly. Many times, people undergo training not because they are interested in the course but just because they have to. While designing a course we need to understand that our learners are not students or children but, adults.Adults are goal oriented, self-directed, and like to be respected.

According to Knowles, Holton, and Swanson (American Adult Educators, famous for the adoption of the theory of andragogy) adults dislike and resist situations where they feel others are imposing thoughts, information or ideas on them. They like to learn when they are self-motivated. So, it’s a challenge for instructional designers to design and develop an online course that internally motivates the learners.

According to John Keller’s ARCS model, there are four steps to motivate adult learners’ – Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction.

For example, let’s see how we applied this ARCS model to one of our online courses for training HR managers. The course was about policies and processes; an HR manager should know and follow while recruiting new hires. We have followed this model, to make the learner internally motivated and complete the course successfully.

1. A stands for Attention: “Attention” is the first element in the ARCS model; it is essential to catch learners’ attention. In the course, we have used an animated avatar, called Joe, who acts as a presenter of the course. The use of avatar makes the course more interesting and engaging for the learners’ because it interacts directly with them. At the beginning of the course, animated avatar who is the narrator for the course introduces himself to the learners’ and describes the learning objectives. He then explains steps of how to recruit a new hire. The avatar step by step takes the learner through the course making him aware of the roles and responsibilities in the recruiting process. The animated avatar helps to catch the attention of the learners’ by putting away the boredom.

A stands for attention

2. R stands for Relevance: The next element is “relevance”. Adult learners’ get connected only when they find that the training is relevant to them. We can use real images, scenarios, videos, and simulations so that learners find it relevant to them, and get connected to the learning. For this course, we have used real images, work place incidents as scenarios to make the course content more relevant to them.

R stands for relevance

3. C stands for Confidence: According to this model, “confidence” means learners’ should believe they can achieve the learning goals of the course. The learning objectives should be clear and they should convey learners’ what they will be able to do after completing the course. Therefore, the course should be designed in such a way that learners should feel confident that they can complete the course. For this, the course can be divided into small modules, each having clear and precise learning objectives. The duration of the course is kept short. Before taking the online course, the learner gets to know how much time it will take for him or her to complete the course.

C stands for confidence


4. S stands for Satisfaction: “Satisfaction” is the last element in the ARCS model; learners feel satisfied when they receive some sort of reward. In this online course, after completing the assessments, the learners’ are rewarded with a certificate of completion.

s stands for satisfaction


I hope by incorporating this model, you can make learning happen more effectively and engaging for the learners’ throughout the learning process.

Please do share your thoughts!

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