Despite the myriad of benefits that online learning can bring, there is one serious problem – it is very hard to motivate adult learners to complete one online course, let alone multiple. As is evidenced by the horrendously low completion rate of MOOCs, online learning continues to hold the reputation as more or less demotivating for learners.

As a learning designer, there are some things that are out of your control – for example, if your organisation has selected an authoring tool that chains your learners to their desks, as opposed to investing in mLearning, so they can learn anytime, and anywhere.  However, one area that you can take control on is how you design your online learning.  So, here are four helpful hints for designing to maximise learning motivation:

Goal-based learning

Research has shown, perhaps unsurprisingly, that adults are highly motivated by progress towards their goals.  In professional organisations, one of these goals is likely to be career advancement.  So, if you can successfully draw parallels between career advancement, and the topic of your online learning, it will be more likely to motivate your learners.

But how do you tie your course to their career goals? By incorporating some, or all, of the following:

  • A certificate or other proof of completion that has currency on their CV,
  • Videos of SMEs/or other successful people discussing how they have used the skill that you are trying to teach throughout their careers,
  • Incorporate the course into a professional development plan, which, if completed, contributes to a better performance rating.

Immediately applicable content

There is nothing worse than taking a ‘just-in-case’ course, where you aren’t likely to have to put the skill into practice for months, if ever.  To maximise learner motivation, then, ensure that the skills you are teaching are immediate relevant to the day-to-day roles of your learners.  This can be achieved by:

  • Developing a relationship of mutual respect with managers within your organisation – so as to ensure you can push back when requests are made for irrelevant courses,
  • Invest heavily in the training needs analysis stage of your training development – to ensure you are truly delivering JIT (Just-In-Time) learning.

The best kind of training is short, relevant, and incredibly useful – something that is made much easier by mLearning.

Authoritative content

Your learners are intelligent, professional individuals – they can tell if you’ve paid a university student to research a topic and have put together a course on the back of that.  Instead, you need to ensure you spend time consulting with SMEs, to ensure that your course contains both the latest and greatest content for your learners.  This is particularly important if you are creating real-life scenarios for your learners – you want the scenarios and ensuing consequences to be the most authoritative they can be.

Innovative navigation

Locked navigation and the repetitive use of the ‘next’ button are both complete motivation-killers, and amongst the top pet peeves of all online learners.  Your learners want to explore the content you are offering them, at their own pace, and in the manner in which they choose.  To ensure you offer this option to your learners, try incorporating:

  • ‘Choose your own adventure’ type branching scenarios, where a series of decisions leads directly to different outcomes,
  • Gamification, and the ‘unlocking’ of special content,
  • Engaging and compelling storytelling.

Online learning does have a bad reputation – but it doesn’t have to be that way.  By incorporating goal-based learning, immediate applicable, authoritative content, and innovate navigation, you can substantially increase your learner’s motivation to complete your course.

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