Attention: This site looks better in the latest Mozilla or Internet Explorer.

The Learning Conference 2003

Home | Newsletter | Call for Papers | Register

Presentation Details


How to Keep eLearners from eScaping: Principles for Keeping Online Learners Involved and Motivated to Finish a Cours

James F. Moshinskie.

This presentation focuses on creating extrinsic motivational techniques to complement the intrinsic needs of elearners. These extrinsic events are not just individual elements acting independently, but rather are synergistic, combining to create a dynamic, exciting environment. These elements may alternatively or additionally heighten the perceived relevance of the learning activity or create urgency to complete it. The objective is to create an external instructional environment that enhances the learner's internal interpretation of the environment, and thereby provides the motivation necessary to start, continue, and finish online training.

While many managers try to save time – and money – by insisting that the instructional team jump right into instructional design activities, most performance improvement technologists can attest readily to the necessity of a thorough front end analysis (FEA). During the needs analysis stage for online instructional interventions, focus on these key points:
One emerging message in today's information-rich e-learning environments is that employees must see how the training directly addresses their real needs in the workplace.

Research shows that a supportive work environment motivates learners to transfer the new knowledge to the workplace. Studies suggest that the notions of the need for power, achievement, or affiliation serve as the primary levers in explaining performance variations among individuals. Make certain the workplace is prepared to support the completion of training and the application of new knowledge and skills. Push strategies include requiring and monitoring training completion. The non-instructional approaches to motivation can be of monetary or non-monetary nature.

As the learner takes the online course, several strategies can be used to create and maintain motivation. These include: Increased motivation can be directly related to how the learner is impacted by environmental factors, people support, learning design strategy, and ease of use when it comes to technology infrastructures. When instruction is divided into compact, 20-minute or less learning chunks, also referred to as learning objects or learning bytes, the material can be effectively presented to the learner in a digestible fashion. Learners become motivated by lessons that incorporate their beliefs and examples of things they can relate to handily. Online learners cannot stay motivated by turning pages on the web. Borrowing from videogame makers and movie directors, you can vary information presentation and stimulations using audio, video, animations, and well-told stories. Letting employees know how well they are learning the content and performing the new task acts as an incentive for greater effort. Just as a trainer in the corporate classroom can provide visible extrinsic presence and support, the online environment needs to also encourage and help cyber learners. Because web-based training can be presented to globally dispersed employees, the performance improvement technologist will need to pay attention to the cultural demographics of the learners. Provide learners with easy and immediate access to the content. When we make our learners curious, they exhibit a higher desire to know more about a topic

Even when the learner completes the online course, motivational strategies can also improve the transfer of training back to the workplace. Several key strategies can be particularly effective: When the learners complete a course, special effort should be taken to congratulate them. The trainer's responsibility does not end when the learner completes the course. Follow-up to the training ensures that the skills or knowledge learned is not lost. One way is to communicate the key learning achievements to the learner’s supervisor. Most traditional instructor-led training is viewed as an event. After the class ends, the student has a tendency not to think about the material again because the training event is over.

Learners bring their own interpretations of the virtual online environment and how they learn best from it. One way that performance technologists can better understand these interpretations is to examine the metacognitive strategies used by learners during an online course. Metacognition addresses how a person learns, and it varies between people. After your learners finish a course, invite them "to think how they learn". Analyzing their reflections provides important metacognitive insight about their learning process.

Motivation to transfer what was learned online to the actual workplace depends upon trainees' perceptions of managerial and social support for the use of their new skills, referred to as environmental favorability. The learners can be asked several questions which specifically address their motivation to transfer using both open-ended and closed-end type responses. Once the data are collected from the trainees, appropriate statistical tools can analyze the data and perhaps uncover correlations to future performance.

Motivation, that is, the drive of the learners to start and finish a course and transfer the knowledge back to the worksite results from the intrinsic drive within the individual learner and extrinsic efforts externally supplied by the online learning environment. This presentation will present numerous extrinsic motivational strategies available to online developers before, during, and after the course. Online instructional designers especially need to understand how their students learn best (metacognition) and then provide a complementary external environment that interacts with those specific needs positively.

It is impossible and inadvisable to incorporate all these strategies in any one course. However, as you monitor and evaluate e-learning courses, you can determine which motivational strategies work best for your particular target population. Thus, you can slowly move from creating online courses using intuition, to having some theoretical basis for design and development. By monitoring the learner's responses to these techniques and developing a metacognitive approach unique to your audience, you can increase the effectiveness of online learning and make it a more effective tool in our performance improvement toolbox.

The foregoing discussion has focused largely on what can be done to increase motivation at different points in time. It is also important to recognize that it is not just instructional designers who can make substantial contributions to the success of learning activities. Many of these ideas can be made more effective through the involvement of those in different roles in the organization. This suggests a collaborative approach to making learning effective.


James F. Moshinskie  (United States)
Accenture Professor of Human Performance
Hankamer School of Business
Baylor University

Dr. Jim Moshinskie

Dr. Jim Moshinskie serves as the Accenture Professor of Human Performance at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. Dr. Mo, as he is better known, coordinates the Performance Improvement Technologies major in the Hankamer School of Business and directs the Center for Corporate E-Learning. The Center conducts e-learning pilots and sponsors one-day boot camps onsite to corporate trainers entitled "E-Learning Made E-Z."
Dr. Mo enjoys converting content into interactive e-learning, and his efforts have led to his winning ISPI Awards of Excellence for Instructional Interventions in 2000 and 2001. His eLearning project for Conoco won the ASTD Excellence in Practice Award in 2000, and his eLearning course for Northwestern Corporation won the 2001 Excellence in Practice Citation from ASTD. In 2002, he received the Certified Performance Technologist (CPT) status from ISPI. Recently an eLearning team he directed received the 2003 Professional Builders Work-Force Development Achievement Award for the eLearning courses they created for David Weekley Homes, a multi-state homebuilder based in Houston. He can be reached at His homepage on E-Learning is:

  • eLearning
  • Motivation
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Extrinsic motivation
  • Metacognition

(30 min Conference Paper, English)