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Increasing Motivation to Learn in E‑Learning

9 expert tips

Increasing motivation to learn in e-learning

Motivated participants not only learn faster, but also retain new knowledge in their heads for the long term. Of course, as in the analog learning process, relevance, recognition, and fun are the basics for motivation. The good news is that these motivational factors can also be positively influenced in e-learning. In this article, you will find 9 concrete expert tips that you can use to design the e-learning process in such a way that your employees are guaranteed to be motivated!



Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation

People do things for two different reasons: Because they themselves want to do something of their own accord, or because the "outside" provides them with incentives. Often, both types of motivation - the internal, intrinsic and the external, extrinsic - also come together. Both types of motivation can be specifically increased in e-learning. Here's a closer look at the two types of motivation for learning:



Intrinsic motivation to learn

Intrinsically motivated individuals derive their motivation from the activity or task itself. Thus, motivation is based on one's own will to achieve or avoid something specific. In the context of learning, this means that the more relevant and applicable the content, the higher the intrinsic motivation to really engage with it.

Extrinsic learning motivation

Naturally, however, motivation can also be influenced from the outside - independently of a person's own internal drive. In this case, one speaks of extrinsic motivation. This refers primarily to concrete benefits that provide an additional incentive to do a certain thing. In the case of learning, we usually speak of certificates, awards, bonuses, etc.


However, intrinsic motivation not only achieves stronger results, but is also more sustainable and therefore more valuable. So, when it comes to increasing motivation, the focus should always be on intrinsic motivation first.



Nadine Pedro
[Translate to English:] Nadine Pedro, chemmedia AG

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1. Communicate goals and expectations

The easiest way to motivate is to give learners an overview of their learning process that can be easily viewed at any time

  • Clear chapter menus,
  • Information on approximate learning duration,
  • clearly communicated criteria for passing,
  • and an always visible and current processing status.

are fundamental for motivation. Because unlike analog media, such as a book, notebook, worksheet or analog, time-limited learning events, the scope of digital learning content can not be estimated. Information that is otherwise provided by analog media and event frameworks must be presented in a different way in e-learning. Therefore, make sure that your authoring tool includes the features mentioned here in any case.


2. More Variety

One of the key advantages of e-learning is that professional software offers plenty of different and interactive formats. So why not use them to their full potential? Texts can often be easily replaced with videos, infographics, audio files, interactive images, etc... and even the texts themselves can be made engaging with the right software: So for a change, how about fold-out boxes, text carousels, accordions and flipcards to keep learners entertained, especially in extensive online courses?

At the same time, the different formats help accommodate the preferences of different types of learners. So when choosing your authoring tool, make sure there are elements for visual, reading-writing, communicative, and auditory learning types as well.


Icon eye visual learning type

The visual learner

learns about seeing, reading, looking at, and observing. Pictorial representations, charts, and graphically structured learning materials support the process.

E-learning elements.

  • interactive videos
  • Images with hotspots
  • Assignment questions (text/image or image/image)
  • Image selection questions
  • Timelines
  • Picture collages
  • Boxes in different designs
Icon book reading-writing learner type

The reading-writing type of learner

memorizes knowledge best by reading and receiving the most important information.

E-learning elements:

  • Cloze text
  • interactive tabs
  • flowing text
  • Timelines
  • infoboxes
  • Assignment questions (text/text)
  • Dialogue questions
  • Speech bubbles
  • Pop-up boxes
  • Hot-spot texts
Icon talking group of people communicative learner type

The communicative learner type

learns best through interaction with others. He is helped by discussions and his own lectures.

E-learning elements:

  • Group chat
  • Feedback feature
  • Comments
Icon ear auditory learning type

The auditory learning type

Processes particularly well what he has heard. Reading aloud, lecturing, and verbalizing on his own help with learning.

E-learning elements:

  • interactive videos
  • audio

3. The appropriate difficulty level

Not all learners have the same prerequisites. Prior knowledge of various topics varies widely by education and experience. Since both under- and overload quickly demotivate, it is important to individualize learning content accordingly. Logically, no one is motivated to learn if they only understand the first chapter of the course, and it is no fun to waste valuable time and effort on unnecessary repetition of basic knowledge that has long been available.

The magic word for this challenge is "adaptive learning", i.e. adapting the learning content and the learning process to the individual needs of each learner. There are several ways to adapt. So-called pretests can be used to specifically avoid over- or under-testing: Knowledge tests that check the level of knowledge even before the course begins and guide learners to the appropriate course/course section based on the results.

This approach not only avoids demotivation, but also conserves cognitive resources, shortens the required learning time, and enables self-reflection in case of knowledge gaps.



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4. Awaken team spirit

Some learners only really blossom when learning together in a group. Good thing e-learning and social connections are not mutually exclusive - quite the opposite. It is common practice to mix different analog and digital forms of learning. In this case, it's called blended learning. The aim is to combine the advantages of analog classroom events with the flexibility of digital learning.

In doing so, content from the analog event can be consolidated digitally or learning content can be divided in such a way that there is more time in the classroom events for practical content that requires personal supervision by teachers or presence in specific rooms. At the same time, learners come together and can share learning experiences or work together on new learning content in group sessions.



5. Seeing where things are stuck

Online courses aren't being completed in full or with sub-par results? Learning analytics allow a detailed insight into which content learners are particularly likely to falter on. Learning analytics work in much the same way as Google Analytics for the web: e-learning software makes learning behavior transparent and measurable - far beyond obvious key figures such as "test results" or "course completion". For example, the following can be collected:


Icon Learning behaviour

learner behavior data

  • Number of times a content/chapter/video was viewed: to check which content was captured the first time (success) or as an indication of overly complicated/incomprehensible content
  • Click behavior of users: as an indication of interests
  • Duration of played videos: as a check whether completely played or not (possibly saving potential for future learning videos, because these are particularly expensive)
  • Time required per chapter/media type: to determine preferences
  • Total time required: e.g. to compare target groups and to calculate learning time spent
Icon eLearning data

Result Data

  • Completion status (open, started, in progress): to monitor successful completion and remind if necessary
  • Score/score for knowledge test
    • in advance of learning via pretest (to adapt learning opportunities to the learner's knowledge level)
    • to assess the learning success (this includes the quality of the associated learning content)
    • Use as a list of participants / evidence
  • Number of attempts required for tests: as an indication of quality of associated learning material

In this way, detailed causes can be read and it can be determined which content may be in need of optimization. In addition, learning analytics can of course be used for much more complex considerations: For example, for determining the return on investment or for looking at genuine competence developments.



6. Gamification

We all still carry an innate play instinct within us - even if it is often no longer satisfied with the same intensity in adulthood as it was in childhood. But as we know: Playing is also fun for adults! If you consciously use game elements in e-learning, you trigger the learners' play instinct - perhaps even without them consciously noticing that they are still in a learning situation. This explains why there is often talk of "learning while playing".

For this purpose, game elements are deliberately transferred into a non-game context: challenges, constructed competition, point systems, quick feedbacks, levels, ... they all arouse curiosity and ambition and transform the learning process into an emotional experience. In this way, participants repeat and consolidate knowledge, driven by their own emotions and without finding it hard.



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7. Realistic Scenarios

Think about yourself: When are you most receptive to learning new knowledge? Probably when...

  • You actually benefit from the new knowledge.
  • You don't have to deal with unnecessary content in the learning process that takes up your time without providing you with applicable knowledge.
  • Content is explained by examples that you can also understand from your own activities.

Surely you could extend this list by a few more points, but ultimately all would lead to the same conclusion: Your motivation is likely to be highest when the learning content is relevant to you. This is precisely when you can make ideal use of your cognitive resources and best internalize knowledge.

When creating online courses, it is therefore important to always adapt content to reality as much as possible. Therefore, always ask the question: can users really apply the knowledge presented? And can learners really identify with the examples chosen?

Clever tools such as Knowledgeworker Coach provide additional support by giving you the option of realistically reproducing entire communication scenarios - ideal wherever customer contact is involved. In this way, users can improve their communication skills risk-free on the basis of realistic conversation situations, and then apply them directly in real-life situations.



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8. Rewards

Unlike all the other tips discussed here, rewards increase extrinsic motivation, not intrinsic motivation. Possibilities abound: issuing certificates, awarding new titles, public awards, bonuses, salary increases, vouchers, or even promotions. Even if it seems easy to entice with rewards, you should still use them selectively: The resulting competition among colleagues can also be demotivating if the conditions are not similar enough.



9. Freedom

If participants can at least partially make their own decisions about the learning process, this conveys a motivating sense of control and power. For example, so-called learning paths can be used to determine which courses are mandatory and in which order they must be taken, but also which courses and in-depth studies the participants can decide on freely. Here, too, the rule is: Moderate the amount of freedom. If learners have too many options and there is a lack of structure, freedom can turn into demotivation.



Is motivation measurable?

Motivation cannot be measured directly, but at least indirectly. Motivated learners show through better results and faster progress. Even simple learning analytic tools help determine these metrics. However, don't forget to record the respective status quo before making changes. This is the only way to really analyze the effects reliably. In addition, you are of course also free to ask your employees directly for an assessment of the e-learning offerings and their motivation by means of surveys.



The bottom line.

Success in learning rises and falls with employee motivation. Fortunately, there are several effective ways to increase motivation in a targeted way. Focus your measures on intrinsic motivation first and use external incentives such as rewards only in good doses - because even with rewards, frustration can arise in inadequately implemented e-learning offerings. In such a case, learners might achieve the set goals without sustainably anchoring the new knowledge. A professional authoring tool supports you in all measures that promote intrinsic motivation.

Magda Lehnert | Blogger
Magda Lehnert

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