When it comes to the efficacy of learning, other than course content and instructional design elements, what matters a lot is learner motivation. Well, you cannot control the learners’ motivation but you can influence their levels of motivation for sure. You can either motivate the learners to learn or entirely kill their interest. As a learning experience designer, your influence is unlikely to be neutral.
In this article, we will look at motivational design and specifically the ARCS model of motivational design.
“Motivation refers broadly to what people desire, what they choose to do, and what they commit to do” (Keller, 2009). Philosophers have been pondering over the exact definition of motivation since ancient times. However, documented research exists only for a few hundred years. There are numerous theories that attempt to explain motivation and its attributes. Keller (2009) groups them into four categories.
The first one explores motivation through human physiology, genetics, and neurology. The second takes into consideration behavioral approaches, such as operant and classical conditioning, incentive motivation, and environmental influences. The third group delves into cognitive, attributional, and competence theories. The fourth group focuses on studies of emotion and affect.
Such categorization is useful for organizing and demarcating areas for research, but they keep researchers confined to a category and prove to be a hurdle when it comes to developing a holistic theory of motivation.
Motivational design, as shown in Figure 1, does not occur in isolation from other influences like instructional design and the learning environment design.
Figure 1. Motivational Design as a Subset of Instructional and Learning Environment Design (Keller, 2009)
According to Keller (2009), “Motivational design aims to enable the dream of educators, other behavioral change agents, and managers of human performance to stimulate and sustain people’s efforts to make positive changes in their lives.” From a learning experience designer’s perspective, “Motivational design is concerned with connecting instruction to the goals of learners, providing stimulation and appropriate levels of challenge, and influencing how the learners will feel following successful goal accomplishment, or even following failure” (Keller, 2009).
ARCS is an acronym for Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction. Each of these components can be easily explained with a question. You can see the questions alongside the definitions in Figure 2.
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