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How Programmatic Learning Boosts Learner Motivation

  • 5 Min Read

When you’re asking your learners to engage with a programme over weeks or months, you must work harder to keep them engaged and motivated throughout the duration of the programme.

Learner motivation is always a hot topic amongst L&D teams. It plays a crucial role in ensuring our people are engaged and energised to take part in our learning programmes. And ultimately, it is critical for knowledge retention and behavioural change – the key goals of any learning intervention. So how can we energise and motivate our learners to ensure engagement? With programmatic learning, of course.  

Programmatic learning (also referred to as programme-based learning) is a blended approach to learning that spans months, not minutes. By bringing together evidence based, personalised learning with people interaction and feedback, programmatic learning creates interventions that create real behavioural change.  

But perhaps most importantly, programmatic learning keeps learning momentum high, as it holds all your people accountable to one another. Often through regular check-ins with their peers and mentors throughout the duration of the learning programme.  In this fifth installment of our programmatic learning blog series, we’ll explore the importance of motivation and engagement in learning, and how you can increase this amongst your learners.  

The problem of employee engagement  

Employee engagement is a wide-spread problem. In fact, recent surveys have shown that the UK workforce are some of the least engaged in the world and less than half felt aligned with their organisation’s goals. So if you’re struggling with an unengaged workforce, you’re not alone.  

But this brings a huge challenge for L&D teams. If your learners aren’t engaged with their job, what’s the likelihood that they’ll be engaged with the learning you want them to take part in? Well, have no fear. The situation is quite the opposite. Learning opportunities have the ability to transform employee engagement. In fact, almost half of all employees say that opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important when choosing where to work. So instead of seeing employee engagement as a hindrance to effective learning, we should be viewing it as a business challenge we can help overcome.  

Alongside this lack of engagement, we are also dealing with some of the most time-poor employees ever. A CIPD survey in 2019 reported that three in five employees work extended hours, with over a quarter overworking by more than 10 hours a week. With high-pressured work schedules like these, even the most engaged employees struggle to prioritise learning.  

Time-poor teams 

Our learners aren’t the only ones struggling with hectic schedules and time pressures. L&D teams are facing the same challenges. In the last year alone, learning teams have had to pivot and transform their learning process to account for COVID-19 and all it brought with it. This is on top of the looming skills gap crisis, shrinking budgets and much more. To truly overcome the engagement problem and to energise and motivate learners, L&D teams need to be able to utilise modern technology to transform and automate their processes. By utilising technology in this way, we will be able to motivate, connect with and engage with employees en masse, without adding more tasks to L&D increasing to-do list.  

But what will it take to engage learners? 

There are two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Each pulls on learners thoughts and feelings in different ways. And to effectively motivate your entire cohort of learners, you should consider including both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors in your structured learning programmes.  

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. This is the motivation we need to foster to develop lifelong learners. To do this, you need to tap into the ‘why’ of the learning. For example, explaining the skills the learner will walk away with once they’ve completed the programme and how these new skills will impact their lives. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from external factors. Either the learner is motivated by some kind of award, or they’re motivated by the risk of punishment. 

Although tapping into extrinsic motivation has its time and place in learning; you must use this sparingly and with careful consideration. A learner completing a course for some kind of reward, whether it’s a prize or cash bonus, will not be focusing on ‘learning’. Instead, they’ll be focusing on winning. This will not incentivize the learner to continue learning, and follow through with the entire learning programme. But, competition and motivation are closely linked, so many L&D teams opt to include digital rewards such as micro-credentials and badges. But games like this may not resonate with all learners, so you must evaluate what will work for your cohort, and design accordingly.  

Creating motivated, engaged learners

Stitching together both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors, and embedding it throughout your programmatic learning framework, is a recipe for success. By pulling together these factors in a learning programme that spans weeks or months, you will be reiterating and reinforcing the importance of the learning, which will open your learners eyes to the possibilities that will come from being a lifelong learner. 

A great way to tap into learner motivation is by using gamification. Although this word may make you shudder as you imagine overly gimmicky games, game mechanics are a fantastic tool to have in your learning arsenal. When designing learning activities, you should tap into these three factors of game design:

1) Emotion

We become hooked on any game because of how it makes us feel. Whether you spend hours playing Football Manager™ for the sense of competition and reward. Or spend your evenings completing sudoku puzzles to get your brain working and receive a sense of accomplishment. You’re having an emotional connection to that game. It’s the emotional connection that keeps you playing, and it’s this we should mimic in our learning programmes.

2) Explain and educate

Most games have some educational piece to them, whether you realise it or not. Sudoku puzzles are said to improve logical thinking, memory and recall. Family-favourite board games, such as those that let you buy and sell properties, teach the basic premise of how the economy works. And even the super addictive Candy Crush can teach us a whole host of leadership lessons, But nobody ever picks up their phone to play Candy Crush in order to learn how to lead. No, we play these games because they’re enjoyable and entertaining. Integrate some of these subtle learning methods into your programme to boost learner enjoyment.

3) Immediate feedback

Games can give immediate feedback for wrong actions, and in turn, the player quickly learns to not make the same mistake again. Integrating this mechanic into your learning will allow your learners to immediately practice the skills they’ve acquired through the course, and receive immediate feedback about whether they’ve applied the skill correctly or not.


By integrating these game mechanics to your learning design, you’ll be on your way
 to boosting learner engagement. But this alone is not enough. You must integrate these tactics into your blended learning programme for real success. To learn more about programmatic learning, 
download our free ebook now.

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