Motivated Learners: ARCS Model of Motivation

The ARCS Model of Motivation, developed by John Keller, is an instructional design approach used to engage learners.  It systematically outlines ways to gain a learner’s attention and then keep it through out a lesson.  ARCS stands for Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction. Using instructional design practices like the ARCS model is one of the techniques used in Learning Services to create engaging online tutorials.  Here’s a look at the model in action.


Generally, gaining a learner’s attention is done through stimulating a learner’s perception or inquiry about a topic.  Keller refers to this as perceptual arousal and inquiry arousal.  Perceptual arousal grabs a learner’s attention through surprise or disbelief while inquiry arousal captures a learner’s interests by creating a need to solve a problem.  You are likely already familiar with how perceptual and inquiry arousal is stimulated as it is often the goal behind capturing a viewer’s attention in TV commercials.

There are a variety of ways to gain a learners attention and as an instructor you should feel free to experiment with and employ a variety of methods.  Some options include: active participation, use of humor, conflict, various media, and real world examples.

In the plagiarism tutorial, we used a variety of attention getters and placed them throughout the tutorial.  Initially the tutorial begins by testing the students on their knowledge through a short quiz.  If students get the quiz correct, they can move on.  If they get the quiz incorrect, they are forced to complete the tutorial.  This technique is unique as it can stimulate both perceptual and inquiry arousal.  Some learners will be surprised that they didn’t know as much as they though they did.  Other learners will see a challenge in figuring out why they received a wrong answer.  Another way attention was created and maintained during the tutorial was the use of animated characters that added a slight humorous feel to the lessons.


Relevance pertains to using analogies, stories, and other strategies that enables learners to relate to the material.  This includes linking material to current or previous experiences, showing learners the worth of learning the lesson by answering the “what’s in it for me” question or illustrating the usefulness of newly learned skills.

In the plagiarism tutorial we create relevance by relaying the message up front that this lesson will help you avoid plagiarism and its consequences.  It also uses case studies, written from the student perspective of possible real-world scenarios and their answers.  This helps student recognize their own misunderstanding about plagiarism and provides relevance.


Confidence is about helping a learner feel good about their ability to succeed.  If a learner feels like they will never “get it” or that the material is too hard, it puts up a mental block of discouragement and saps learner motivation.  Suggested ways of building confidence include: providing feedback, communicating objectives so that a learner can recognize when a goal or objective has been achieved, and taking small steps that show immediate success.

We build confidence in tutorials by presenting information in baby steps and building as we go.  We also provide positive feedback.  Even negative feedback is worded in a positive way that explains what the better choice would be.  Also built into the tutorial are what we call “You Try” activities that enables learners to practice new skills and test their understanding in a non-graded, low-risk environment.


At the end of a lesson, learners should feel satisfied that they have achieved a lessons objects, goals or gained new knowledge or skills.  Some strategies for increasing satisfaction are praise and rewards as well as immediate application.  Learns should feel the new knowledge or skill that was learned is immediately applicable and that the time spent learning was worth it.

Each of our tutorials end with praise via a congratulations message.  Satisfaction is also increased by a call to action that is given through a reiteration of what the learner can now achieve or do.


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