Instructional design tells you how to make a course.
It answers questions like: how do you use visual design to make the information easy to understand? How do you make courses instructionally sound? How do you ensure courses meet compliance regulations? How do you make learning paths that make sense? Even, how do you make engaging content? And so on and so forth.
But there is a missing piece to instructional design: motivation.
Motivational design – a term coined by John Keller – seeks to tell you how to motivate learners in completing the courses.
After all, it doesn’t matter if you’ve created the most beautiful and engaging courses this side of the universe – unless learners are motivated, they won’t care.
There are many times where learners know what to do and are capable of doing it, but just don’t want to do it.
For this article, I spoke to Göran Bolinder, who presented on the topic at Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, Fla. this year.
Bolinder is a senior consultant at informiQ and has long experience in training, information engineering, elearning, and more.
This article will cover:
- What is motivational design?
- What is the role of motivational design in instructional design?
- What is the ARCS model?
- The biggest piece of advice for those new to motivational design
- The biggest mistake to avoid in motivational design
What is Motivational Design?
Bolinder had a short answer and a long answer for this one.
“The short answer is: ’Motivational design is the art of making learning appealing without becoming too entertaining.’
A little longer answer (picked from John Keller’s website, [source below]): ’Motivational design refers to the process of arranging resources and procedures to bring about changes in motivation. Motivational design can be applied to improving students’ motivation to learn, employees’ motivation to work, the development of specific motivational characteristics in individuals, and to improving peoples’ skills in self-motivation. Motivational design is systematic and aims for replicable principles and processes.’”
These two definitions describe motivational design differently. One is about the spirit of what it aims to do. The second definition is more technical – it talks about the methods and results of motivational design.
What is the Role of Motivational Design in Instructional Design?
Bolinder said: “I would say motivational design and instructional design are two different, but closely related, processes.
You use motivational design to make sure your instructional design is successful, and your learners reach the training goals.
Some instructional designers might believe that if instruction is well designed it will automatically be motivating, but it is not hard to find examples of the opposite.
Instructional design traditionally includes processes and techniques for producing efficient and effective instruction, but normally pays no or little attention to students’ intrinsic motivation for actually learning something.”
Tapping into that intrinsic motivation could be especially vital when dealing with compliance training or other required training. While learners could be clicking through the course and retaining enough to get the answers right, are they really learning much? Creating motivation in learners using motivational design is the key to a complete learning experience.
What is the ARCS Model?
Bolinder explained “The ARCS Model of Motivation is an approach to motivational design for learning environments, developed by John Keller. It is based upon the idea that there are four key elements in the learning process which can encourage and sustain learners’ motivation.”
Think of the ARCS model as being similar to the Kirkpatrick Model – it’s a process that you can follow, but you don’t have to follow it rigidly. It’s a model designed to make sure you don’t forget anything, but you can still use it thoughtfully and carefully.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the way you apply such models is very dependent on your audience. Take care to keep in mind the needs and preference of your audience when developing a strategy for using ARCS and motivational design in your training plan.
The TWO Parts of the ARCS Model
There are two parts.
The first part is the acronym of ARCS. ARCS describes the four components of motivation to try and touch on with your motivational strategies.
Attention has to do with learner engagement. This refers to anything regarding course design that helps learners be more interested in what’s presented, whether it’s chunking material, making it fun to look at, or easy to read. Another great way to get attention is elements of surprise – whether it’s in the format of the lesson or information that challenges what the learner believes to be true. Attention is already a part of instructional design to some extent but it’s helpful to think of it as a factor of motivation too.
Relevance is making the content relevant to the learner. This can be done through communicating with your employees about the way the content will benefit them. Listening to employees about their learning needs is important, too. You can also use adaptive learning to automatically deliver content based on learner interests and preferences. Bolinder also added that “presenting role models of other people who successfully applied the particular piece of knowledge or skill presented, will also motivate learners to find the course relevant.”
Confidence is a more abstract factor. Sometimes when a learner is intimidated by content or fear they won’t be able to apply the skills, that will hold learners back from wanting to engage with the content. This factor can be implemented by making sure learners have prerequisite knowledge before moving on and being clear about expectations of performance. That way, learners won’t imagine they’re expected to be a wiz after a ten-minute course.
Satisfaction is another abstract factor that is hard to pin down. Some learners will feel rewarded just from learning a new skill. Other learners need some kind of acknowledgement of their accomplishments from supervisors. Know what matters to your learners and lean into that. Bolinder explained that “the most important way to get learner satisfaction comes from meaningful achievements.” He suggested providing learners with opportunities to use what they’ve learned on the job.
Part II: The Motivational Design Process
The second part is the motivational design process:
The Biggest Piece of Advice for Those New to Motivational Design
Bolinder advised: “Try to adapt a motivational mindset!
Don’t just focus on how to use different pedagogical measures to reach your learning goals. In parallel, think of how these measures will make your learners feel at different parts of the course during the certain conditions when they take the training. For example, it might not be a good idea to dim the lights and show a video directly after lunch, since you would probably face an attention issue. Instead a group exercise could be a better choice to keep people active (and awake).”
He also suggested analyzing training results in relation to ARCS in order to understand where there are gaps in motivational factors.
John Keller, the inventor of the ARCS model, also wrote a book called “Motivational Design for Learning and Performance: The ARCS Model Approach” for anyone who wants to dive in deep with ARCS.
The Biggest Mistake to Avoid in Motivational Design
Bolinder explained, “The most common mistake is to use too much bells and whistles, since instructional designers tend to think that the more motivational measures, the better. If too many entertainments are used, learners start working only towards the extrinsic rewards and not towards the learning goals. This means they will have a great time without learning anything.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. You must do a target group analysis in order to create a successful motivational design. The level of your analysis will of course vary, depending on the size of the project and the time (and money) available, but the bottom line is that you need to understand your users before trying to motivate them.”
Communicating with your users and analyzing their behaviors is the best way to deliver great training that will help your company grow – whether in instructional design or motivational design.
If you’ve been wondering why your beautifully designed courses aren’t delivering the results you were hoping for, motivational design could be the key. Bridging the gap between learner capability and learner motivation just requires a few ARCS!
John Keller’s Website: https://www.arcsmodel.com/motivational-design-c2275
DOWNLOAD THE Design Guide
Interested in other ways to engage learners? Here’s the guide to capturing their attention with graphic design. It includes 8 web design principles as well as free tools and assets you can use.