Motivating Adult Learners


I have previously mentioned Keller’s ARCS motivation model, and how it applies to motivating adult learners. However, I have not specifically discussed my approach to using these strategies – which is what I plan to do today!

How to Motivate Adult Learners

The ARCS Model of Motivation looks at different strategies through four different categories of motivation – Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction. Including one or more strategies from each category of motivation within any adult learning experience, whether it be an e-learning module or consulting, will help any instructor reach their desired goal.


Attention is paramount to any learning objective. Without the attention or engagement of the adult learner, motivation will be low.

There are a lot of different strategies that can be used to attract or retain the attention of an adult learner. A few of these strategies are listed below.

  • Humor – Humor is a great way to start any presentation, or maintain attention throughout long learning experiences.
  • Active Participation – Research shows that an engaged learner is much more likely to learn what is needed! Active participation can be as simple as reading information out loud, sharing an experience, or participating in a role playing scenario.
  • Gamification – Using game strategies can motivate and grasp learner’s attention quickly! I’ve found that, when used appropriately, gamification strategies are best when an instructor is not physically present.


In my experience, the first two questions out of an adult learner’s mouth are, “Why am I here?” and “How will this help me?” While sometimes combative in nature, these are valid questions!

I believe that relevance is the most important area of motivation to include with any adult learning experience. A few strategies are listed below.

  • Present Worth – “Why am I here” can often times be the blunt start of a learning experience. Answering this question directly, and making sure the adult learner is aware how this learning will add value to their life is often the first step to making sure the learning experience is relevant for the learner.
  • Future Usefulness – If there is no current usefulness for the learning experience, certainly there is future usefulness! Making sure the learner is aware how the learning experience will improve their future life is very important – even if it’s just learning a new payroll system!
  • Choice – If the learning experience allows for it, choice is a great way to motivate adult learners. Because learners all have different backgrounds and skill-sets, offering the learner choice on what experience they wish to pursue will significantly increase their motivation.


Once the learning experience has started, it is the instructor’s job to make sure the learner is confident with the learning target. If the learner isn’t confident with their new knowledge or skills, the instructor hasn’t been successful!

Below are a few strategies to increase the confidence in the adult learner.

  • Growth Mindset – It is so important for instructors to preach a growth mindset! Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking work on mindset opens the doors on improving learning through mindset. An effective instructor must be on the lookout for fixed mindsets, and champion growth mindsets.
  • Provide Feedback – Adult learners need positive feedback as they are learning! Low confidence questions like, “Am I doing this right?” or “Am I understanding this?” often float through a learner’s mind. Put those minds at ease by providing feedback often!
  • Giving Control – Similar to allowing learners choice over what they learn, giving a learner control of their learning environment will instill and inspire confidence. Because adults learn differently, this strategy allows for the learner to engage with the learning in the way they understand best.


Satisfaction is the final category in Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivation. Strategies in satisfaction allow the adult learner to engage with the learning in new ways. By the end of the learning experience, the learner should walk away satisfied and confident in their new knowledge or skill.

Below are a few strategies you can use to make sure your learner is satisfied with the learning.

  • Praise and Rewards – Positive feedback, in any form, feels good! Whether it is a certificate, a raise, or a smile and compliment, praise and rewards increase the level of satisfaction and motivation of adult learners.
  • Practice – Allowing the adult learner to practice their new skill before utilizing the skill in a professional setting can greatly increase the satisfaction of the learner. This strategy also helps increase the confidence of the learner!
  • Action Items – Giving the learner a specific action plan after their learning experience is vital. “So now what?” is another common question in trainings, and answering that question before it comes up connects the learning with its professional application.

The Importance of Evaluation


I had the opportunity to show some of my portfolio modules to some “outsiders” – people who don’t have a lot of experience with E Learning. I watched the outsiders work through some of my modules as an evaluation exercise, and it was very useful in understanding the flow and accessibility of the learning within my modules.

In any learning experience, it is very important to keep the “E” in “ADDIE” – evaluation – a constant part of your practice.

I previously posted about some changes I made to a Valentine’s Day module here. After my recent evaluation experience, I decided to focus on my Hospital Cleaning Module.

Hospital Cleaning Demo

There were two areas that I found the learning wasn’t as accessible within my original module design. To improve the design and learning experience, I added a few reminders, and more active buttons on the screen to draw the learner’s eye when necessary. This practice was valuable in recognizing the importance of constant evaluation when it comes to learning development.


Random Numbers


I’ve been exploring how to use javascript more effectively within Adobe Captivate. It’s actually easier, and a bit more powerful, than I realized before.

RND # Generator

Please forgive the simple graphics – this is a quick proof of concept!

Using javascript, I was able to create a random variable between the numbers 1 and 4 (like a four sided die). Next, I needed to have a text box show that variable, as it changed.

This actually turned out to be incredibly easy! I didn’t even need to declare a function in javascript (though with a complex project there would be benefits of doing so). I defined the random number variable as “d4” – and the text box that needed changing was named “d4roll.” The code I wrote is below.

var d4 = (Math.floor(Math.random() * 4)+1);
d4roll = d4;

As you can see, it’s just two lines – the first, identifying what the variables number will be, and the second, declaring the text box to be equal to the variable.

So, when the triangle button on the bottom of the module is pressed, a random number between 1 and 4 appears on the scroll above!

When I first started with Adobe Captivate, it seemed like a more flexible version of powerpoint. I’m beginning to see the power and utility behind the software, and it’s opening a lot of avenues for what I want to create in the future.

Valentines Module


I created this module in participation for this week’s E-Learning Challenge. The challenge asked for a Valentine themed game, template, or interactive infographic. I decided to create a “Last Minute Gift Purchaser” for valentine’s day. The idea is that the user, short on time before Valentine’s Day, would be given some quick gift ideas. They would select the ideas that seem best, click the “Buy Your Gifts” button, and a web page would open up ready to purchase the gift!

Valentines Gift Module

Valentines Module Images

While building this module, I ran into some functionality issues with Captivate. It appears you can only open four tabs at once – but my module required up to 8 tabs to be opened at once! So as a workaround, I wrote a short script with javascript that allowed the module to open all 8 tabs if the user selected all 8 gifts. Using javascript as a button action can really open the functionality and flexibility of the program.

Edit – 2/14: I wanted to edit this post for two reasons. First, the module I created was shown in the Articulate Challenge Valentine’s Recap post here! Second, you may notice some differences between the two posts. I made a few small design updates to the “final” version I posted to my blog, based on feedback and other fixes I wanted to make!

Hospital Cleaning Demo Complete


I just finished up my Hospital Cleaning Demo. It looks cleaner, trim, and was a bit more advanced than my previous modules.

I was looking for something that could be applied to health care setting that teaches a specific and important skill. The demo begins with attention and relevance, the first two action steps using Keller’s ARCS model of motivation. It continues building confidence, as the learner is show what Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they will need for the job. Check out the demo below!

Hospital Cleaning Demo

Click for the Hospital Cleaning Demo

Edit 3/7/2019: I recently updated the Hospital Cleaning Module, linked here.

Next Module Up – Hospital Cleaning


I found a .pdf online from a hospital in Europe, showing the cleaning procedure for the different rooms. I decided that my next module would help train cleaners for hospitals.

Without any SMEs to talk to, the online procedure is all I have to go on for the module. Working with an SME would allow me a greater opportunity to combine their expertise with my instructional design skill to bring about something even better.

I’ve only had an hour or two to work on this module. For now, I’ve posted a few screen shots below showing the design and a few interactions in the module.

Title Slide - Hospital Cleaning Module

Title Slide – Hospital Cleaning Module

Importance - Interaction Examples

Importance – Interaction Examples

Completed Importance Examples

Completed Importance Examples

Children’s Book Sample


I created a sample children’s book as a challenge to myself.

It took me about two and a half hours. It actually would have taken less, but a lot of the assets I found were really large. I discovered that when I resized them to a significant amount in Captivate (shrinking by 75% or more), the resolution got really messed up. So I ended up resizing in Inkscape, a free graphics program, and then adding them to the project.

There are a few things I would change for next time. I would double check audio levels to make sure they are all similar. I think they’re close in this project, but would require a little more adjusting. Also, a few of the sounds I chose I no longer like (in particular, the pig).

Front Cover of Sample Children's Book

Gate Screen and Next Steps


I finished a quick gate screen today, with challenge number 3 of the Articulate Storyline Challenges. It was interesting seeing a number of different gate screens from other designers.

After reflecting on a few of my designs so far, I realize I need two things. First, I need to start thinking about collecting professional level assets. I’ve been putting together my own when needed, and quickly. They just aren’t at the level I, or any future clients, are looking for. Second, I need to study up more on color design. I am aware of resources like Adobe’s Color Wheel – but assessing my own designs show I need more work in this area.

Sample Gate Screen

Sample Gate Screen Image

Starting a Portfolio


Today, I was able to finish two practice E-Learning challenges- an Airplane Comparison, and a Tab Template. Both of these exercises taught me a bit more about E-Learning and using Adobe Captivate. It was also fun to see a few other Instructional Designer’s creations, and what they came up with for both challenges.

Interactive Learning

Tab Template

I am going to continue with the Storyline Articulate Challenges for a few more days. Then, I am going to start seeking out small projects for clients to continue improving my skill set.