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What are the levers of learner motivation?

What is motivation?

Rest assured, this is not an essay for the Philosophy 2021 school leaving exam!

Nevertheless, as a digital learning professional, it is important to understand key concepts such as engagement, interaction, and… motivation!

Indeed, this question is essential! Knowing what engages and motivates our learners to complete a training course is basic to the success of an online training system.

So let’s first go back to first principles.

According to the Larousse dictionary, motivation is defined as the “reasons, interests and other elements that influence a person in his or her actions” or as “all the factors that determine the behaviour of an economic agent”.

Applied to the world of work, the notion of motivation tends to be defined as the set of elements that allow an individual to adopt an effective behaviour in a company, committing himself in a total, voluntary and natural way to the performance of his duties.

In training, the motivation of learners is based on their perception of themselves and the conditions in which the training offered takes place. Motivation is related to needs (before) and the consequences of an action (after) as well as the learning climate (during). It rarely depends solely on the learner or the organisation delivering the training and stems from a sense of responsibility shared between the two.

How to support motivation and give meaning?

There are five main pillars for supporting learner motivation and helping to make training experiences meaningful.

  • Perception of value

Perception of value is the value found by the learner in training or in a given training activity.

In order to be able to complete the training successfully and continue to make progress, everything must start with a precisely defined objective.

As author Simon Sinek explains with his concept of the Golden Circle, everything must start with a “why” rather than a “what”. Giving your learners a precise indication of the reasons for the training will help them to find meaning in their actions and therefore motivate them to complete the different training activities.

If the reason given does not have a strong enough perceived value, our learners will lose interest and abandon the training. Or worse, they will reluctantly participate.

Then, you must clearly define the reasons why learners need to complete this online training activity. What benefits will he or she be able to derive from it?

In summary, the perception of value therefore passes through the following stages:

–        Explicit objectives

–        Meaningful activities

–        Concrete tasks

–        Relevant content

–        Authentic situations

–        The organization of knowledge


  • Feeling of competence

This is the competence that the learner experiences with regard to a training activity or training.

For the training or training activity to be motivating for the learner, it is necessary that it represents a challenge. Nevertheless, care must be taken to ensure that the level is appropriate and the difficulty graduated so as to avoid a feeling of frustration.

To ensure that the feeling of competence exists at a session during an online training course, we can:

–        Include a challenging part, with gamification, levels to reach, challenges between learners

–        Give clear instructions

–        Show encouragement

–        Define an appropriate level and a graduated level of difficulty

–        Schedule regular feedback

  • Feeling of control

We are speaking here of the control exercised by the learner over training or a given training activity.

In order for the training to remain motivating, it is important that the learner have some control over the activities.

The feeling of control in an online training activity translates into:

–        Flexibility in completing training

–        Freedom of choice

–        Freedom of action

–        Experimentation

–        Decision-making

–        Accountability


  • Sense of belonging

To stay motivated, the learner also needs to be part of a group, feel good in it and receive attention. A recent study carried out by the ISTF institute showed that 50% of non-tutored devices have a completion rate of less than 10% while 65% of tutored devices have a completion rate of more than 60%.

The sense of belonging can be maintained and strengthened through various levers, such as:

–        Follow-up coaching / tutoring (in face to face or virtual classroom)

–        Collaborative learning

–        Group work

–        Encouraging participation

–        Highlighting successes

–        Caring relationships

  • Feeling of pleasure

We are talking here about the pleasure that the learner experiences in taking part in training or a given training activity.

For a training or training activity to be motivating and engaging, it must convey human values that will give the learner confidence. And it must be playful.

For this we can use different levers:

–        Humour

–        A caring attitude

–        Various tasks

–        Good atmosphere

–        Fun activities

–        A variety of resources

If you ensure that your training programme meets these 5 basic requirements, you will give yourself the best chance of boosting the motivation of your learners.

Is motivation alone really reliable?

Relying solely on motivation is a flawed concept. Motivation comes and goes depending on different days and moods. However, if the “Whys” discussed above are well defined, the motivation will be more likely to be present in the long term. Indeed, learners cannot be asked to be motivated if you cannot explain to them why completing training or a given training activity is important.

Motivation is therefore mainly related to the sense of meaning that has been given to learners and the mission that they will feel invested in. Stronger than motivation, we thus establish a certain discipline, routines and habits, the benefits of which learners value.

All the levers we have seen together today will allow you to offer engaging, meaningful and memorable training.

Because arousing and maintaining the motivation of learners is a major challenge. Indeed, motivation varies from one learner to another and even from one day or moment to the next. That is why we cannot rely on motivation alone. For this it is important to rely on deeper levers, which will allow learners to feel invested and to go to the end of their online training path.