Motivate Your Students to the Max! – Using ARCS Motivation

I was thinking about the ARCS model of motivation the other day and it reminded me of how important the concepts are for any course. Below are a few thoughts on the ARCS (attention, relevance, confidence, satisfaction) model and how to integrate it into course design for online or hybrid courses.  


The ARCS Motivational Model:

Get Your Students ATTENTION

When a student first logs into the course site or LMS (learning management system), is the banner engaging? Do you have an introductory video or prompt that will get them really excited about starting the course? Do they know who you are and why you’re passionate about this topic or course? As you develop new modules, is there an article, a clip, an interactive, or something that quickly pulls them into the topic? Think about the blockbuster movies, within the first 5 minutes they are trying to pull in their viewers to peak their interest and hold them captive. Is there anything you might do in your course to accomplish similar results?

Make What You’re Teaching RELEVANT:

It’s sometimes difficult to remove ourselves emotionally from the topics we teach. As good teachers we’re passionate about our areas of expertise. We live it and we love it! However, take a moment to consider this… Your student may not share that level of passion about the topic and the ONLY way you may infuse it in them is by making the content relevant to them. Does your course leverage surveys and polls? Are there discussion prompts that are thoughtfully calculated to encourage students to “prove” to eachother why the topic is relevant to them?  Are blogs used to help student’s journal and post on topics that are related to the course content while also being of interest to them? Are current events embedded in the lessons so students see that the course is relevant far beyond the next test or even semester?

Build their CONFIDENCE:

Consider the students that often sit silent in class, too embarrassed to respond to questions for fear of being wrong. When students no longer fear failure, they are empowered to try. Online learning allows unlimited opportunities of practice through auto-check review practices. Do you have self-check activities prior to graded assignments or assessments? Why not help them figure out what they need to review even before they submit their assignment. Does the feedback you offer build their confidence? If they are failing in a particular areas of the course,you may reflect on the lessons and assignments in that module. Which modules have the lowest grades for them? Can there be additional material, an alternative assignment, or a web conferencing study session for those problem areas?

I still remember a Geometry class that I loved! I’ve always struggled with Math but there was one class I remember where I really got it. It’s been over 15 years since then but I still remember how great it was to be confident I knew how to complete the assignments. Are objectives clearly listed to help students know where they are headed in your class? Are they encouraged to call you anytime (most of the time)? Do you create an environment through announcements, text alerts, or email that encourages them to call you when they are struggling? These ideas can help students increase both their confidence in learning the topic as well as inspires them to be confident that you are there to assist them as they need it.

Encourage their SATISFACTION:

What reward will your students have after completing a lesson, topic, or course? Have they achieved some level of satisfaction beyond the grade? What types of praise might they receive for doing well and how may it be delivered? Are there formative assessments that you referred to and used to help you adapt your teaching as needed? Do you respond to emails from students within 24 hours with encouraging feedback? Are there built in rewards for reinforcing positive behavior in the discussion boards, assignments, peer review work, or blogs? What might you do for your particular content area that will help students feel satisfied well after they complete a module?


What are some things you have done in your online or hybrid / blended courses that increase student motivation?


3 Steps to Zap Life Into Your Course With Surveys!

Recently, I was blown away by  an onlineRace & Gender Issues” course here at UNLV. Not only was the course well designed and very interesting, but for each module, there were specific surveys that really encouraged the students to get excited about the topics explored. It made me think about what an important tool surveys and polls can be in online and hybrid courses.

If you want to increase the interest level or help students relate what your teaching to their everyday life, then a well designed survey is a simple way to work towards that.

From a students perspective, the most interesting courses are ones that are applicable and relevant to them. Most instructors are passionate about their content area but only some of them are able to convert their passion into something that students relate to. It’s true that we aren’t all passionately interested in the same things. However, when we integrate the student’s perspectives, passions, opinions, and thoughts, not only do they become more connected with the content but everyone enjoys the topic and everyone learns together! That is why surveys are so great! Here are just 3 steps to zap some life into a course.



3 Steps to Zap Life into Your Course with Surveys!

1. Explore the free survey tools that are available!  Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a couple minutes and check out the options. Seeing samples and types of surveys out there will be a great start in helping you design high quality, interesting, and successful surveys for students. Here are just three tools that I think are amazing!

  • is awesome! In just a few minutes you can create a poll question or survey and embed it right into your LMS (Learning Management System) or presentation. Students can vote and immedietely see results.
  • allows students to use their mobile devices to send a text or respond online to the survey question and it’s immedietly reflected. You can embed these in PowerPoint or other presentations, asking your students to respond using their devices. No clickers needed!
  • allows you to develop a thorough survey asking multiple choice, likert scale questions and much more. It allows up to 100 respondents for free. It’s a great tool to help you find out what your students think about the course and what suggestions they have for you to consider in future revisions which leads me to step 2.

2. Find Out What Your Students Think About Your Course! Feedback like this is crucial when you review and make updates/changes to your course. As we all know, curriculum development is never ending so why not let your students help you! Consider how the following info might influence how you revise your course:

  • Which topic are they most interested in?
  • Which part of the course/module/lesson do they like the most/least and why?
  • Which module could benefit from additional practices or lesson aids
  • Do they have any feedback regarding: course design, instructor interaction, the etextbook, or course materials?

Successful companies always encourage feedback from their clients. Your students are your clients and their feedback can help in many ways. After just a single survey of gathering feedback like this, you can target needed areas of course improvement, plus imagine how empowering it is for them to know that you care enough to revise the course and make it better based on their suggestions. Just because students offer suggestions, doesn’t mean you have to do it all, but at least you will know what they are thinking. Also one other tip, don’t “over survey” your students. For best results consider the length and time restrictions your students may have.

3. Survey/Poll Students on Course Related & Thought Provoking Issues!

If you visit a news website, it’s likely there will be a poll question on the page which relates to a current topic of interest. It’s hard for me to ignore them. I’m always curious to vote and see how my thoughts correlate with the majority. Students are the same way!

Carefully review the topics you are teaching and consider how students might be individually interested in it. Here are a few survey question starters:

  • What do you think about….
  • Which of the following are…
  • How do you feel about….
  • When do you….
  • Where do you….
  • Why do you…

Then list the options. Questions/Polls can be simple yes/no questions or more advanced allowing students to post their individual responses for all to see. The key is to survey them on topics that are related to the objectives of the course while also relevant and interesting to your students.


What other ways have you used surveys/polls in your course? Have you seen an increase in student satisfaction, course completion, etc since using surveys?  What tips do you have for design? Please share your thoughts in the comments area!