Motivation in Education: Attention

Engaged students at computers
This image has been shared under a creative commons license ( via Jisc (

In my last post, I introduced John Keller’s ARCS Model for Motivation. The ARCs model has practical application in face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments. To recap, Keller’s ARCS Model has four parts:

  • Attention
  • Relevance
  • Confidence
  • Satisfaction

This post focuses on how you can gain a student’s attention to increase and improve his or her motivation to learn.

Liao and Wang (2008) discovered that incorporating Keller’s ARCS model in instructional design and classroom instruction allows instructors to “early spot students’ learning problems and make an early instruction intervention to further appropriately modify teaching strategies to meet various learners’ needs” (p. 56).

Did you catch that? If used in course creation and instruction, Keller’s ARCS Model for Motivation helps teachers to be more aware of their students’ learning problems. This awareness helps you adjust the curriculum and your teaching style to meet their learning needs.

Gaining Your Student’s Attention

Chesebro and McCroskey (2002, p. 90) found that “making eye contact and smiling at students, calling them by name, and using vocal variety and appropriate humor” are effective strategies to increase and maintain students’ attention in face-to-face learning environments. The character, John Keating, exemplifies these teaching strategies in the film Dead Poets Society (Weir, 1989).

Morrison (2012) offers some key strategies to increase and maintain students’ attention in online and blended learning environments: “provide timely feedback on assignments, respond to students within 24 hours, include constructive and personalized feedback on assignments, craft a weekly message, acknowledge academic challenges, and comment strategically within the discussion boards.”

When my professors used these strategies, they increased and maintained my attention. In turn, my motivation to learn and do well in my classes increased as well.

For example, in my online MA in Strategic Communication program at Liberty University, one of my professors consistently responded to my questions within 24 hours or less. He provided timely and personalized feedback on assignments. His weekly announcements and videos prepared us for the topic(s) that week and reminded us of what was due. He asked questions and responded to students in the discussion board. By engaging students in the discussion board, my professor made the discussion lively and active—encouraging students to participate.

In my next post, we will discover practical ways to motivate your students by making your course content relevant to them in and outside of the classroom.


Chesebro, J. L., & McCroskey, J. C. (Eds.). (2002). Communication for teachers. Pearson.

Jisc. (2015, August 21). [Gaining students’ attention]. Retrieved from

Liao, H.-C., & Wang, Y.-H. (2008). Applying the ARCS motivation model in technological and vocational education. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 1(2), 53-58.

love2b1. (2007, April 14). Dead poets society-3 [Video file]. Retrieved from

Morrison, D. (2012, August 31). How to motivate students in the online learning environment. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from Online Learning Insights website:


I’m Wondering: Is There a Better Way?

Wonder-thinker pixabay

I spend a lot of mental energy wondering.  I wonder if I did this … I wonder why they did that … I wonder if others wonder.  I often find myself wondering what helps people learn – including myself.  For example, I’m not very mechanically minded.  I have spent a lot of sleepless Christmas Eves trying to assemble that awesome present that looked fantastic in the store.  I often wonder if there is a better way for me to learn.


Could I be more effective if I attended a class on Some Assembly Required or perhaps watched a YouTube video of Super Handyman? Maybe I should pick up a copy of Assembly for Dummies on my next trip to the hardware store.

Wondering-instructions pixabay

Seems I am not alone.

One of the first studies asking the questions I asked above was conducted in the 1940’s by the US Army who had a bunch of guys who needed to learn basic calibration procedures in a short time.

They wondered if it would improve the process if they used a variety of ways to teach.  They tried three different methods – the traditional classroom, a book and a film.  After the trainings, they evaluated each group and found no significant difference in outcomes between them.

Sixty-four years later.

Years later the introduction of the personal computer and the World Wide Web gave rise to an explosion of online education.  Back in the 1990’s when I began developing online courses I wondered if online learning could be as effective as the familiar traditional classroom.  Others wondered the same thing.  In 2004 a meta-analysis report from Bernard and colleagues accumulated many research studies where they compared learning in face-to-face classes to online courses.

The majority of differences were quite small – meaning that just as in the Army research – learning was equally effective from face-to-face and online versions.  With the considerable evolution in technology since 2004 – like the smartphones and cloud-based technologies – I wonder if this is still true.

The US Department of Education wondered the same thing.

In 2010 the US Department of Education did another meta-analysis. This report summarizes experimental comparisons among purely face-to-face, purely online, and the new kid on the block – blended instruction.  Just like in 2004, this study concluded online learning was as effective as conventional classroom instruction and neither significantly outperformed the other.

Wondering-blender pixabayHowever, this time they found blended instruction to be significantly more effective than both online and face-to-face.

Blended? I wonder why.

What is it about blended instruction making it more effective?   I wonder if it’s simply because blended learning allows students to do passive activities like listening asynchronously at home and use face-to-face time for reinforcing interactions.

Maybe it’s because blended learning caters to different learning styles, like visual or kinesthetic.   Or could it be because it allows delivery of content through a variety of mediums?  I really wonder if it might be because blended gives the faculty time to be more creative making learning more interactive and fun.  I wonder if the truth might be that all of these factors contribute to making blended learning one of the most effective ways for students to learn.

So much to wonder about.   


Bernard, et al (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of Educational Research 74, 379-439.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online Learning: A Meta-analysis and review of online learning studies, Washington, D.C., 2010.

Images: used with permission from (creative commons licenses).


Form an Online Connection: Part 2

This post is the second in a series titled, Form an Online Connection. Part 1 was published March 9, 2017. 

In my last post, Form an Online Connection, Part 1, you read about using your voice to connect with students. This time, the focus is on using your eyes. In a face-to-face course, students have the benefit of being in the same room with the instructor. This makes it possible to observe body language, vocal tone, and facial expressions. Valuable connections are made as the professor looks into each student’s eyes and allows them to return the gaze.

Open your eyes.

Bhat, Chinprutthiwond, and Perry (2015) hypothesized that videos allowing students to have eye contact with the instructor and to view non-verbal signals contribute to better student engagement in the online environment.

It’s true; direct eye contact can be very captivating. In the online speech course I teach, I post “coaching” videos to demonstrate certain speaking techniques. Not only does this allow me to model the expected behavior for my students, it gives me the opportunity to make one-on-one eye contact with each learner. Students are often quite apprehensive about giving speeches, so with my first video (posted below), I try to alleviate their fears, give them solid tips, and connect with them on a personal level.

Use a free tool.

Instructors may conveniently record from their webcam, phone, or another device. The recording can then be uploaded to YouTube and a link embedded in the course. In addition to appearing on camera, a professor may find value in sharing what is on their computer screen (think: documents, websites, images, PowerPoint slides). Screencast-o-Matic is free software that allows anyone to record up to 15-minutes of content.


What kind of videos can you share with students? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

IDEA 1: Provide a brief review of the prior week’s learning.

  • Recap the highlights of the week by emphasizing key concepts.
  • Clarify topics with which students may have struggled.

IDEA 2: Model how students are to implement a particular concept and/or complete an assignment.

  • Visually demonstrate the steps students need to take in order to be successful.
  • Appear on camera, but also use screen-sharing software so you can illustrate with examples.
  • Record yourself doing the task. If it’s a speech class, give a speech. If it’s a math course, solve a problem.

The main thing to keep in mind is to appear relaxed and personable.

Look directly into the lens of the camera. While it may feel awkward to you, your students will perceive that you are looking into their eyes.

Smile and use good vocal variety. Speak as though you are having a one-on-one conversation.

Keep your recording short and sweet. If it’s too brief, students won’t see the value; if it’s too long, they will tune out.

Although personal interaction may seem easier in the traditional classroom than it does in cyberspace, a little creativity and planning can result in a valuable online connection between the instructor and student through the use of video.


Bhat, S., Chinprutthiwong, P., Perry, M., & International Educational Data Mining, S. (2015). Seeing the Instructor in Two Video Styles: Preferences and Patterns.

Boling, E., Hough, M., Krinsky, H., Saleem, H., & Stevens, M. (2012). Cutting the distance in distance education: Perspectives on what promotes positive, online learning experiences. The Internet And Higher Education, 15(Special issue of the American Educational Research Association’s online teaching and learning special interest group), 118-126. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.11.006

El Mansour, B., & Mupinga, D. M. (2007). Students’ Positive and Negative Experiences in Hybrid and Online Classes. College Student Journal, 41(1), 242-248.

Wolff-Hilliard, D. d., & Baethe, B. b. (2013). Using Digital and Audio Annotations to Reinvent Critical Feedback with Online Adult Students. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 80(2), 40-44.


Motivation in Education: Overview

motivation-imageMotivating students is one of the most difficult tasks for a teacher. Don’t believe me? How many students are like Jeremy in this Zits Comic? A student’s motivation does not rely solely on his or her own effort, but also on the teacher’s behavior and the way he or she presents content. John Keller understood this when he created his ARCS Model for Motivation in 1983.

As a student studying to be a professor, I cannot stress enough the impact Keller’s ARCS model has had not only on my motivation to learn but also on the way I plan to teach and motivate others. Keller’s ARCS Model can be practically applied in face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments. The model has four parts:

  1. Attention
  2. Relevance
  3. Confidence
  4. Satisfaction

A combination of the four elements increases and maintains student motivation in and outside of the classroom. Teachers can use attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction in their classrooms to help students become motivated, remember the content, and do well in class.

In his research, Dupont (2012) noted that Keller’s motivation principles:

“have been shown to be valid and stable over the years in virtually all cultures and at all levels of education, even though there are many differences in the practices used to achieve them” (p. 28).

The key phrase is “there are many differences in the practices used to achieve them.” The world of education is changing. Face-to-face is no longer the only type of learning environment and students’ learning styles are ever-changing. More and more students seem to be psychomotor (hands-on) learners rather than cognitive learners. Teachers need to be aware of these trends and adapt their instruction accordingly, depending on the subject that they teach and the students they are teaching.

Remember, there’s a myriad of ways to implement and apply Keller’s ARCS Model in your teaching style and lesson plans. Over the next few posts in my Motivation in Education series, we’ll look at each of the ARCS components so you can think about how you can implement and apply each of them in your learning environment—whether it’s face-to-face, online, or blended.

DuPont, J. S. (2012). Nursing faculty motivation to use high-fidelity simulation: An application of Keller’s ARCS model (Order No. 3547010). Available from ProQuest Central; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1267836282). Retrieved from

Scott, J., & Borgman, J. (2016, January 3). [Motivation in education]. Retrieved from

Journey of a Teacher

Even though it was decades ago, I vividly remember my first high school science classroom. I was right out of college and totally terrified. My professors opened a new world for me, and I wanted more than anything to step into that classroom and show students the beauty of what I had learned. If God gifted you with the heart of a teacher, you understand what I am talking about. I conquered my fear, walked into that classroom, and enthusiastically started my journey of a teacher.

Sometimes on life’s long road it is helpful to pause and reflect on the journey. Marcina Wiederkehr in her book Behold Your Life: A Pilgrimage Through Your Memories (2000) encourages us to reflect on our memories so we can move into the future with new wisdom and strength. As I look back and reflect on my journey of a teacher, two memories surge to the surface.

The first memory is my growing awareness that no two classrooms of students are the same—each classroom has its own personality and characteristics. If I was going to be an effective teacher I couldn’t always do things the same way.

I needed to change along with my students. I needed new strategies.

The second memory is the realization that in my classroom, I was the novice. My students were growing up in a world that was dramatically different than the one I knew. The students arriving in my classroom only knew of a world with computers—the internet, smartphones, Google, and cloud technology swiftly following.

I was not the expert in everything—I was ignorant too. I needed a teacher.

But in my journey, the one constant was my heart of a teacher with its love of learning. And I still want more than anything to share the beauty of what I have learned.

If you have been on the teacher’s journey, I am confident you relate to the transformational insights I shared about my own personal journey. I am also assured of your love of learning.

The truth is we all need new strategies. We find ourselves novices in many areas, and we need a teacher. This is why the eLearning team is taking time to create this blog. It is our attempt to come along side you to provide tips, strategies, and information that might be helpful as you continue your journey of a teacher.

Welcome to Model eLearning.