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How to apply motivational theories to deliver relevant, engaging learning content (focusing on ARCs)

schedule 29th August 2018 by Naomi Hepworth in Education Last updated on 29th August 2018


It’s a well-known fact that e-learning completion rates are lower than those for classroom-based learning, with some sources suggesting that completion rates for e-learning are about 40%. One key factor blamed for this low completion rate is learner motivation. It is clear that motivating learners to engage in their e-learning is a critical factor in their success.

Designing e-learning based on motivational models helps to bridge learners’ motivation gaps, increase engagement and drive behaviour change. Designing great looking e-learning is not enough, if learners are not interested in the topic, don’t buy into the learning goals or struggle to see the big picture; they are suffering from a motivation gap.

Here at Virtual College, our in-house team of expert instructional designers endeavour to address those gaps in motivation with their design approaches. An important motivational design model which is often used by our instructional designers is John Keller’s ARCS model.

The ARCS Model details four methods of motivating learners

  1. Attention – Successfully capturing and sustaining a learner’s curiosity is the most important part of the model. It prompts them to invest time, pay attention and discover more. Virtual College achieves this by ensuring we use a wide variety of different media in our e-learning, encouraging learner participation through interactive activities and providing real world examples to allow learners the opportunity to apply knowledge.
  2. Relevance – Linking learning to individual’s needs, interests and motives help learners to see the relevance of their training. A key way Virtual College approaches this is by delivering training at a point of need. We also offer suites of training which enable our learners to build on their previous knowledge.
  3. Confidence – Building learners’ confidence so they are able to apply their knowledge is vital. Ensuring all our e-learning courses have clear aims and objectives and providing regular, constructive feedback helps our learners to appreciate their progress through their learning.
  4. Satisfaction – Ultimately, learners need pride, satisfaction and reward for their efforts. Virtual College’s instructional designers use strategies such as gamification, badges and reward systems to increase the learners’ incentive to complete learning and reward them for successful completion.

‘I employed the ARCS model when I was creating the Parental Mental Health module.’ Rob Denby, Instructional Designer at VC, speaking about his experience with ARCS, ‘The module is underpinned by the story of Elena, who experiences some of the issues covered in the course. This real world example not only helps learners to identify the relevance of the learning, but, as the story sections were presented as animated videos, they break up the learning to help keep learners attentive.’

The Parental Mental Health course also includes a game activity which replicates the stresses that individuals experience in an average day.

It is by utilising methodologies such as the ARCS model during the creation of e-learning that the instructional design team at Virtual College can ensure the products they create drive the desired results for our customers and their learners.

Please email to get a free 30 minute consultation to find out how we can help with your e-learning strategy and delivery to make your learning campaigns as engaging as possible.

Naomi Hepworth Author

Author: Naomi Hepworth

Naomi is a Learning Technology Manager who has worked closely with organisations to support the delivery of digital solutions for over eight years. Creative in and out of the workplace, in her spare time Naomi loves to cook and is a keen photographer.

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Gold and silver award winners at the Learning Technologies Awards 2017 - including gold for excellence in the design of learning content.


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