Intrinsic Learning Motivation & 5 Ideas for Leveraging It in Digital Learning

When it comes to corporate learning, motivation is a tricky subject. As we know, motivation comes in two kinds – extrinsic and intrinsic. Learning itself is arguably an area where intrinsic motivation is prevalent. People find meaning in developing themselves and acquiring new skills. However, statistics of corporate learning don’t always support this line of thought. Motivating learners seems to be difficult, and consequently many organisations have adopted maybe an unnecessarily large focus on factors of extrinsic motivation – rewarding and punishing for success or failure in learning activities. However, as learning in its natural state is one of the most psychologically rewarding feelings, it might be good to step back slightly and consider what you can do to leverage your employees’ intrinsic learning motivation.

1. Shift control to the learner to develop a sense of responsibility

As it is, corporate learning tends be a very top-down exercise. From the learners’ point of view, it may seem that their professional and career development is dictated by someone with limited exposure and oversight to their actual needs and responsibilities. Does it have to be that way? Not necessarily. Let the employees have more control over their own learning. Let them make choices on what, how and when to learn. When you give freedom of choice, you’ll evoke a natural sense of responsibility, which goes a long way to to secure intrinsic learning motivation. To take the idea one step further, you could also enable the sharing of user-generated learning content.

2.  Ensure learning content is relevant and applicable

A major hurdle in learning engagement is that employees don’t see the content as relevant. Often, the organisations may have themselves to blame for over-reliance on one-size-fits-all and off-the-shelf programs. If the content moves on an abstract level, learners are more likely to have a hard time identifying ways to implement it in their daily jobs. Thus, it’s vitally important to spare some thought on the real-life applications of the given learning. For practical skills, tools like learning simulations provide a great medium of linking the training with the daily jobs.

3. Give constant and constructive feedback

Giving learning feedback also goes a long way for intrinsic learning motivation. With proper feedback, learners can enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Furthermore, it helps them to understand when they’ve made mistakes and how to improve on them. Try to avoid negativity and bestowing a sense of failure upon the learners and remember to level the feedback with the complexity of content.

4. Encourage collaboration and sharing for intrinsic learning motivation

Learning doesn’t, and probably shouldn’t, be an individual effort. From a motivational standpoint, the feeling of contributing to a larger social context, i.e. social presence is powerful. Whereas the shift in control is likely to help learners develop a sense of personal responsibility, this helps them to develop a shared responsibility. You can use both collaborative and competitive elements to achieve the goal. Collaborative learning activities help to engage through social commitment, whereas different gamification techniques can help to foster friendly competition.

5. Personalise learning experiences

Finally, personalisation is yet another powerful tool in sustaining intrinsic learning motivation. The “difficulty” of content comes across as one of the most important factors. If the learning content difficulty completely matches the employees’ current skill level, they are not likely to engage deeply. Instead, you’ll want to give your learners a challenge which they can overcome to get the sense of accomplishment fuelling the intrinsic motivation. To provide a diverse group of learners with the content of the right difficulty, you may consider an adaptive learning design method.

Are you having trouble motivating your learners? We can help by auditing your learning content and delivery and provide tailored suggestions on improving both. Just contact us


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