Secret to Creating Self-Motivated Learners

Self-Motivated LearnersWhen was the last time you got excited about learning something new? Maybe it was the first time you said something in another language or played a song on a musical instrument. Why was this experience exciting? Chances are it was something you wanted to learn and you started off with small, but meaningful learning goals that were great personal achievements.

Your learners’ interest in your association’s educational offerings works the same way. Here are some ideas for how to provide your learners with training they’ll want to take.


Learners are more likely to take advantage of your association’s educational offerings if you: 

● Offer what they want. If someone wants to learn how to play the guitar, but the music store doesn’t have any in stock, they aren’t likely to buy a different instrument instead. Chances are they will lose the motivation to learn as obstacles begin to get in their way.

Luckily, you don’t have to guess what your members want. If your association already uses an annual survey or other method of polling members, include questions related to professional development and continuing education offerings. Ask members what types of education they are interested in and what skills they would like to acquire. Once you decide what you’re going to offer, spread the word. Your learners will appreciate that you took the time to listen to them. They can also look forward to and become self-motivated to participate in the new offering once it’s released.


● Advertise your educational offerings, and keep it current. The aspiring guitar player finds another store that’s advertising guitars. Sadly, all of the available guitars are worn out and broken; again they aren’t likely to buy a guitar at this time.

Perhaps you already offer training on the topics your members are interested in. If that’s the case, yet only a few members are engaging with the material, it’s time to do a little digging. Maybe members have trouble finding or navigating your courses. If so, your offerings could benefit from more publicity or streamlining. It’s also possible that you have the desired topics, but the existing content is outdated. If it’s clear that the content isn’t current, learners probably won’t bother registering for it because the perceived value is low. Remember you can easily repurpose, repackage, and reuse your training materials in order to continue to keep those learners self-motivated.


● Get them involved. After finding a good starter guitar, the would-be musician decides to take lessons. Before they start, the guitar instructor asks several of his new students to come together and meet in-person, so he can ask them specifics about what they’d like to learn.

This isn’t always an option of course, but it’s worth conducting a focus group style discussion with your members whenever possible before deciding what educational products to offer. This lets you get more details and perspectives than a survey alone. It can also be a great way to collect examples. Presenting learning to a pilot group before the full launch is another way of getting direct feedback on what materials will motivate learners. If your learners help shape it, they’re more likely to care about it.


Learners are more likely to stay motivated if you:

● Have them do something. The hopeful guitarist sits through a lesson about the different chords on the guitar. After hearing about them, the lesson ends. The disappointed learner never had a chance to try playing them.

Even training that revolves primarily around knowledge awareness should lead to action. That action should not be reserved for the end of the training; it should take place along the way. Whether it’s a hands-on segment during a workshop or knowledge check questions within an eLearning course, there’s no substitute for experience. It gets learners involved in the training and helps them focus on what they’re doing.


● Give them the chance to succeed. A few lessons later, the instructor assigns an easy, but recognizable song for the budding guitarist to practice. After working on it for a few days, the learner is thrilled that they can play the opening of a song they’ve listened to for years.

Learners want to apply their new found skills and know-how to real life situations. Start with small tasks your learners are likely to succeed at, so they can start their learning with a sense of accomplishment. But do not throw meaningless tasks at them. Passing a multiple choice test probably won’t have the same impact as solving a realistic problem. As the learner progresses, increase the difficulty of the tasks they’re asked to complete.


Helping your learners be self-motivated takes work. But if you provide training that interests them and lets them make meaningful progress, you’re likely to see positive results. What’s the most recent learning experience you enjoyed? Why was it exciting? What made you motivated to learn? Leave a comment and let me know.


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Jennifer Ritter

From storyboards to module building, Jennifer covers a lot of eLearning ground as an instructional designer, writer, and course creator. She earned her B.A. at Rollins College and draws on her past life as an occasional amateur film maker for insight on the zaniness of the production process. This Jen-of-many-trades is fascinated by the role of storytelling and gameplay in learning and engagement. This may or may not be connected to her urge to write novels and love of videogames and most things “nerdy.” A passion for learning that started in school and led to tutoring has happily landed her in the mystical realm of eLearning.

Spirit animal: Hawk
Diet-breaker: Ice cream
Comfort object: Throw blankets
Personal vice: Medieval-fantasy novels
Useless talent: Remembering useless facts
Unreasonable paranoia: Rollercoasters
Wishes more people cared about: Other people


Latest posts by Jennifer Ritter (see all)

  • Akanksha Garg

    Great tips shared in the article!
    Keeping learners motivated to learn in self-paced courses is what all L&D managers strive for.

  • Jennifer

    Now that I do so much typing, I decided it was finally
    time to learn how to touch type. I found a website that follows a
    learn-by-doing model and I love seeing my words per minute average rise! It’s
    doubled in the last little while, although I’m still working on breaking myself
    from “pecking at the keyboard.”

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