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.


Book Review — Designing Information Literacy Instruction: The Teaching Tripod Approach

I recently reviewed Joan Kaplowitz’s new book, Designing Information Literacy Instruction: The Teaching Tripod Approach for the new journal Communications in Information LiteracyI appreciated how this book made several instructional design principles and approaches accessible to people unfamiliar with them through pragmatic examples of how to use them in library instruction. After reading my review (you’ll need to click the linked PDF text to the right of the title), I hope you’ll be compelled to take a look at the book yourself. We have it available online and in print in our collection.

Embedding Online Instruction into Learning Management Systems

Recently I was asked my thoughts on how to go about embedding library instruction into learning management systems (LMS). Questions ranged from is it doable to is it sustainable? The answer to these questions and more is yes!

Embedding library instruction into an LMS can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.

Strategy: Create a library page within the LMS


At the very least, you should talk to your LMS administrator about creating a library page that is accessible in the system regardless of the course. It serves as a resource page that when clicked links students to library resources. Once the link is embedded into the LMS, the issue is one of webpage creation and maintenance. Often times this page is a general information page from the library’s website. The LMS administrator will just need the URL.

Strategy: Become a “TA” in a course


A library webpage accessible in an LMS system is great but it doesn’t really hit the mark when it comes to embedding yourself in terms of instruction. Another easy step, is to talk to your faculty about gaining TA access that would allow you to create a content page within an individual class. This content page could include basic contact information, maybe a few databases that would be specific to the course or an introduction to you and a link to your course guide. This type of content page within a course would need to be spot-checked every couple of years to ensure the information is accurate and relevant. Keep in mind that links to webpages are not as permanent as we would like. The more links that you include, the more maintenance you will need to do to ensure that the URLs are still working.

Strategy: Create a lesson in a course


With TA access, you can build upon the easy step above and actually create a lesson. This type of content creation is usually connected to or presented as a homework assignment and generally takes the form of “reading lectures”. You can make them more engaging by including links to videos and other multimedia. This type of content creation is usually connected to or presented as a homework assignment. It can include quizzes that are created inside the LMS itself which can be connected to the gradebook to provide credit/no credit or a grade for completing a homework assignment. If you are going to this level, you need to be sure that you are creating content in conjunction with the faculty. Remember you are a guest in their classroom and you would need to make sure that the content you create is meeting the learning objectives/goals of the faculty. Maintenance at this level is generally a yearly spot-check to make sure your content is still current, relevant and that links are still working.  Additionally you may be contacted at anytime if students run into technical problems when accessing your content.

Strategy: Create tutorials and embed them within the LMS to be captured in the gradebook


If you are tech savvy and have the time and resources, you can actually use rapid authoring tools to embed a library tutorial inside a learning management system and connect it to the gradebook. This may take the cooperation of your LMS administrator as well as TA access.   When thoughtfully designed, a tutorial could take the place of in-person instruction. This option is similar to the one above only the material presented in a tutorial can become interactive and engaging in a way that “reading lectures” do not. Generally a library tutorial will be connected to or presented as a homework assignment as well. These types of tutorials take time to develop and are done in partnership with the faculty. The workload is front-loaded and because the faculty is an active participant in the design, it is unlikely they will want to make changes to it regularly. Our online tutorials are on a 2 year review cycle.  Additionally you should plan on being the technical support contact in the event student runs into technical problems or user issues.

Whether you want to just get your feet wet by adding a contact page to a class with a link to your course guide or jump right in and create a tutorial, there are many ways in which you can become a part of the online classroom environment. The key is building a relationship with your faculty so that s/he is comfortable with you becoming a part of their online classroom much like you would do for the traditional classroom.

If one of the strategies interests you, feel free to contact us through the Learning Services Consultation form.

Resources we use for staying current

Staying up to date with the library instruction and instructional design communities can be time consuming. Here’s a list of resources we’ve bookmarked to help us stay current.


Information Literacy Instruction Discussion List


Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Instruction Section

American Library Association (ALA) Library Instruction Round Table

The eLearning Guild




Association of Talent Development: TD at Work

Learning Solutions Magazine

LOEX Currents

Engaged Learners in the Lecture Hall

Incorporating active learning into large lecture halls can be challenging. How exactly do you split a lecture hall into groups? If you did a think-pair-share would you even have time for the pairs to share?  Do you use polling with a show of hands? Crystal Goldman, the Instruction Coordinator at UCSD, shared a technique that encourages engagement in large groups called the Cephalonian Method during a recent Lunch and Learn workshop.

The Cephalonian Method was created by librarians Linda Davies and Nigel Morgan at the Cardiff University in Wales.  It is a technique that uses colored index cards with questions written on them to stimulate a guided conversation about a topic in the place of a traditional lecture. The best way to explain the method is to walk through an example.

Prior to my lesson, I would create a series of questions about the topic we will be discussing that are designed to illicit the information I would want to present.  I would write these questions on colored index cards using different colored cards to provide topical groupings.  I would also include a starting question on a card of a specific color as well as questions that help me transition from one topic to another, again using a different color.

On the day of the lecture, I would pass out these cards randomly to participants informing them that when called to do so they will need to stand up and read the question on their card aloud.  If they are unwilling to do so, I kindly ask them to pass the card off to someone who is.  After an introduction to start the lecture, I would ask for the first question that is identified by the card in orange (there should only be one orange card).  The orange card holder stands up, reads the question and the conversation begins.  Next, I would ask for anyone with a green card to stand up and read the question on the card.  There can be a number of green cards that represent a topic.  When I have exhausted all of the green cards, I would then ask for the yellow transition card (there should only be one) and then move on to the purple cards which identify the next topic.  In this way information is shared with the audience in a question answer conversational style that calls for audience participation.

What is nice about the Cephalonian method is that it can be used in any instructional setting but typically works best with a group of at least 20.  It is flexible and can be used to cover a variety of topics and concepts, answers could be simple verbal responses or require demonstrations, and cards can be modified to included numbers so that questions can be asked in order instead of randomly.  When using this technique with your audience, consider whether or not your topic can be approached in a non-linear format.  If not, you may want to stick with numbered cards.  Another tip is to actually write the color of the card on the card for members of the audience who may be colored blind.

Do you have ideas about engaging students in a large lecture hall setting?  What has worked for you?

High-Impact Practices and the Library

Lately it seems like I have been hearing a lot of instruction talk about high-impact practices (HIPs) and how valuable they are in enhancing student learning.  High-impact practices are principles associated with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU’s) LEAP Initiative.  HIPs are a set of educational activities that have been researched by George D. Kuh and identified as activities that correspond to higher levels of student performance.  Some examples of HIPs are:

  • First year experience and seminars
  • Learning communities
  • Internships
  • Undergraduate research
  • Capstone courses and projects
  • Common intellectual experiences

High-impact practices require students to invest a considerable amount of time and effort to participate in personally meaningful activities that are designed to encourage collaboration and feedback from peers and others. These activities are designed to strengthen skills that would correlate to “real-world” applications or wider educational experiences.

To learn more about how high-impact practices can be incorporated into the instruction that takes place in libraries, I attended SCIL Works 2015, a workshop through the Southern California Instruction Librarians (SCIL) titled Let me take you higher: How libraries use High Impact Practices to engage students.   As an example, Matt Cook a librarian at CSU Channel Islands is integrating HIPs into library instruction by co-teaching an inter-disciplinary course with a political scientist in which students begin their undergraduate research experience with processing primary source material in special collections.  Students begin their research by working with letters from the Vietnam era.  Once these letters are grouped into categories they then analyze how the tone and content of the letters may have been influenced by political and war events that they research using secondary sources.   In this way students learn about the different types of information sources in an organic way throughout the course.

What struck me about the high-impact practice presentations at the workshop was that each librarian had spent a considerable amount of time championing librarian-led instruction so that a co-teaching type of relationship could exist between the librarian and the instructor.  This relationship seems to be the foundation on which the design of HIPs is built.  These types of activities occur when librarians are embedded into the curriculum and are teaching research skills as an integral part of a course.  As many of us know, building relationships with faculty and creating library instruction buy-in is not a process that happens overnight.  Perhaps it’s best to start with faculty we know and determine if there are ways in which we can take library instruction to the next level by working together to create high-impact practices even if on a small scale.  What ideas do you have for HIPs within the library? What are some high-impact practices that you are a part of?

Want to learn more?

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

First Year Experience Recap

During this past Fall Quarter, Learning Services had the opportunity to participate in the First Year Experience pilot program that was designed to help students from the six colleges maximize their experience at UCSD by providing them with an introduction to campus resources and services.  As you may recall, students participated in a mobile scavenger hunt type activity in the library that introduced students to library resources, services, and spaces.

We are in the process of analyzing data (both assessment and evaluation) and we are excited to present the project at three upcoming conferences:

  • 34th Annual First Year Experience Conference in Dallas, TX, which takes place Feb. 7-10th (Crystal Goldman)
  • ACRL 2015 in Portland, OR, during a TechConnect presentation on Thursday March 26th (Amanda Heath and Lia Friedman)
  • LOEX 2015 in Denver, CO which takes place April 30th – May 2nd (Crystal Goldman, Amanda Heath, Lia Friedman and Dominique Turnbow)

Additionally, we will be hosting a Lunch N’ Learn in April for all who are interested in learning more about this project and seeing the results.

The design, development and implementation of the First Year Experience was certainly a team effort and wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our library colleagues.  Thanks again to everyone who supported us to make this pilot possible. We are looking forward to using student and other stakeholder feedback to improve the scavenger hunt as we prepare to be a part of this pilot again in Fall 2015.