You’re using an older browser version. Update to the latest version of Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge for the best site experience.

Five Ways to Motivate Self-Directed E-Learners

4 minutes

The calendar reminder for a member of the sales team dings: “Work on e-Learning sales module 3” pops up on their phone. The employee sighs: they are thinking that they have so much else to do, so much else on their plate. They are thinking they can’t possibly take the time to work through another module right now.

What would motivate them in a positive direction?

Seeing is believing

If a person sees the value in what they are doing, if they see direct, real-world impacts, and how the training relates to their career goals, they will find the time to participate. For example, sales are motivated by many factors including the need to succeed, to meet quotas and, obviously, the incentive of monetary reward. By creating a direct link between sales success and training, a self-directed learner will have more stake in participating in the process.

How? Real case examples and analogies taken from the students themselves. An author who knows the audience and integrates their experiences can make the learning process more ‘real’ for the e-learner.


Related to the above point, training that isn’t directly relevant or timely to the needs of the participants is not going to be effective. If the current conundrum of the learner is developing a system for meeting customer requirements, for example, an e-Learning module on customer follow-up is not relevant.

Using examples in the training that come from the learner’s own experience helps to promote relevance, particularly if the training is in response to an issue rather than something of a more general nature.

Being able to learn at one’s own pace and in one’s own space are major advantages with e-Learning. Add relevance and you have a veritable trifecta of usefulness with mobile learning technology.


Keeping a schedule, a routine, for learning has two main benefits:

  1. A person who creates a routine schedule for learning will find themselves looking forward to it, after a time. Athletes have known this for a long time: routine in fitness and training schedules really help to keep the motivation high; the ongoing training serves as a reminder of the different ways that success can be achieved.
  2. Clearing time on a schedule gives the e-learner permission to engage in the training instead of feeling that perhaps they should be engaged elsewhere. Much of what we do every day as individuals is based on justification and permission. If the e-learner feels that they have ‘permission’ to engage in the activity, they’re more likely to do it.

Keeping it Simple

Given the choice, most people would prefer to consume information in bite-sized pieces. The way we read and take in data has changed in the era of digital consumption and social media.

Shorter, achievable goals go a long way to maintaining motivation rather than long, seemingly never-ending ones. E-learners will be motivated by the sense of achievement that they feel when there is forward momentum and a sense of accomplishment in the learning tasks that they are engaging in. 

Modules that can be completed on mobile technology, virtually ‘on the go’, will find a more willing audience.


Nobody likes to work in a vacuum. We are, by nature, social creatures and e-Learning is, by nature, a solitary endeavor. Feedback is an important way that an e-Learning author can reach back to the e-learners and give them the motivation to move forward.

Whether the feedback comes in the form of results of quizzes within a learning module or as a message with notes as to how the learner might improve their knowledge in a specific area, or even as responses to questions that are posed by the e-learner, all forms of interactive feedback help create the ‘stake’ that the e-learner needs to remain motivated in their training efforts.


These principles, along with other small changes in workplace culture, can help launch your e-learners’ productivity and motivate them to excel. Start with small changes now, and you’ll see big results in the near future.

The days of sitting in a classroom to learn are over. E-Learning is here and it’s now.

iSpring Suite

Fast course authoring toolkit

Create online courses and assessments in record time.

Fast course authoring toolkit