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4 Ways To Bridge The Gap Between Extrinsic And Intrinsic Motivation

Despite the quality of your online training content, your corporate learners won’t learn or retain anything unless they really want to. How do you inspire corporate learners to tap into the joy of learning that they left back in childhood? In this article, I’ll share 4 tips to bridge the gap between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in online training.

We all know motivation is the fuel that will drive employees to complete their assigned task. Therefore, the main strategy of any eLearning professional should be to improve motivation and get corporate learners actively involved in the online training process.

There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. As a trainer, manager, or instructional designer, it’s important to distinguish and apply both types for the betterment of your employees. This also helps you maximize the online training ROI and improve learner satisfaction.

Let’s take a closer look at these two sources of motivation, as well as 4 tips to bridge the gap between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in online training.

Extrinsic Motivation

A person who is extrinsically motivated is driven by an external reward such as money. It works best with simple and clear tasks. For example, after an employee has achieved a specific task, they can earn a badge or go to a higher level.

They may not actually enjoy performing the task, but they are more likely to complete it if they know they will get an incentive. Earning rewards, such as earning points or badges, has a positive impact on learner engagement in the short term.

However, these incentives don’t offer them the long-term motivation employees need to achieve their potential. Therefore, an extrinsic reward can be a powerful motivator, but should only be used as part of a more holistic engagement strategy.

Intrinsic Motivation

This is when a person does something simply because they enjoy it or have interest in it. An intrinsically motivated person has the genuine desire to achieve a task whether there’s an external reward or not. Intrinsic motivation tends to hold more value than extrinsic motivation, but it is much harder to achieve.

As a result, eLearning professionals tend to lean towards creating tangible benefits for corporate learners, which can reduce intrinsic motivation. Therefore, eLearning professionals need to find ways to promote both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in online training.

How To Bridge The Gap Between Extrinsic And Intrinsic Motivation In Online Training

There are various ways to achieve promote both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation through your eLearning platform, including the following:

1. Offer Corporate Learners Constructive Feedback

Recognition in front of others will increase intrinsic motivation. It could satisfy your audience’s need for praise. As a result, when a corporate learner feels appreciated, they are more likely to actively participate in their online training.

On the other hand, positive but constructive feedback can give your audience a sense of personal achievement and satisfaction. They can also learn from their mistakes, which further motivates them to want to improve.

2. Use Branching Scenarios And Simulations That Connect Employees To The Real World

If your audience can see how online training can benefit them in their personal lives, that becomes a reward in itself. For example, if they see that online training can give them opportunities, they will be more driven to improve their performance and build relevant skills.

It can also create curiosity, since seeing how the topic applies to their lives will prompt them to explore it further. Incorporate simulations or branching scenarios that practically show how employees can apply what they’re learning. Also, ensure that what you put in the simulations is relevant and relatable to your employees based on their job duties and roles.

3. Challenge Your Corporate Learners

Corporate learners are more likely to respond when their abilities are stretched. Push your corporate learners out of their comfort zones in a non-aggressive way. This will make online training more meaningful to them and allow them to test their own skills and abilities.

As a result, they are more likely to work harder to achieve the required goal. This can also be an extrinsic motivator in that achieving a more challenging task can act as a reward on its own.

4. Encourage Online Collaboration Between Corporate Learners

Collaboration has the potential to promote competition. It can make the corporate learner strive to achieve different assigned tasks so that they can keep up with their competitors. On the other hand, collaboration can make it easier for corporate learners to achieve difficult tasks.

This is because it can make corporate learners enjoy difficult tasks and go further in finding ways to overcome challenges. Invite employees to work together in group settings to solve a common problem and share their unique points of view.

You can also use social media groups and online discussions to allow for informal information exchange and remote collaboration.

How Extrinsic Rewards Unlock Intrinsic Motivation

There is no definite gap between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in online training. Extrinsic motivation can lead to intrinsic motivation. For example, if a corporate learner doesn’t enjoy a particular online training course, extrinsic motivation can drive them to improve their performance.

As the corporate learner sees the benefits of the online training course, they can develop a personal desire to want to complete it. If the online training course proves relevant and relatable to them, over time they will be less driven by extrinsic rewards. Therefore, extrinsic motivation can be a means to hold their attention, get them emotionally invested, and act as a door to intrinsic motivation.

Balancing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in online training is essential. To achieve this legendary feat, encourage your corporate learners through constructive feedback. Apply contextually relevant simulations to link the online training course to their everyday lives, both at the office and at home.

Challenge them and nudge them out of their comfort zones. Encourage online collaboration, both to spur positive competition and to inspire teamwork. It just might extend outside online training and into the rest of their workday.

Do you know what your adult learners need to achieve their goals and tackle everyday challenges? Are you looking for ways to keep your adult learners engaged during your eLearning course? Download the free eBook Designing eLearning Courses For Adult Learners: The Complete Guide to find out about the adult learner characteristics, the obstacles they need to overcome, ways to engage and motivate busy adult learners, and some amazing adult learning facts and stats you need to know as an eLearning pro.

About Christopher Pappas

Christopher Papas


Christopher Pappas is founder of The eLearning Industry’s Network, which is the largest online community of professionals involved in the eLearning Industry. Christopher holds an MBA, and an MEd (Learning Design) from BGSU.

eLearning Blogger | EduTechpreneur | eLearning Analyst | Speaker | Social Media Addict

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