When I started teaching 22 years ago, I knew nothing about how to motivate my students to help drive them toward success.

I didn’t know how to motivate my students in terms of classroom practices and teaching strategies, and I certainly didn’t know that motivation was something that one could actually design into a course.

In fact, it took years of professional development, research, and experimentation to learn how to create and cultivate motivation in my students.

And just when I thought I had the whole motivational design thing down, I started designing and teaching online courses.


I discovered that to be a successful online course creator/instructor, I had to learn a whole new way to design motivation into my courses.

Today, I want to share a few basic motivational design best practices with you. You can put these to work immediately for the benefit of clients and students who are enrolled in your online courses and virtual programs.

Here are my top 5 motivational design tips. They are all actionable, so you can put them to work immediately.

Tip #1 – When you give your clients or students an assignment (or task), be sure to provide them with a set of clear, concise instructions and a suggested (and realistic) time frame for getting the work done.

Adult learners are notoriously overloaded and often poor time managers, so set them up for success by clearly articulating (a) what they will do, (b) how they will do it, and (c) how long it should take them to do it.

Tip #2 – Design visual and structural consistency into your online courses. This means that you need to build out your courses just as if you were designing a template course that you were going to hand-off to someone else.

This is something that I train all my coaching clients and online students to do, and it enhances both the general aesthetic of their online courses as well as the user experience — both of these factors are key to keeping students happy and engaged in an online course.

Tip #3 – Give your students some measure of control in your course by letting them set their own pace to course completion. Even better, create course completion timeline charts for your online students, so that they can choose a timeline to course completion that will work for them and their schedule.

Tip #4 – Set up your online courses so that learners have unlimited access to course modules (or learning units) and course content. Students need to be able to revisit course modules at any time. Learning is not a singular event, and some of your students may need to go back and repeat readings, assignments or other content associated with the course.

Tip #5 – Infuse community and social learning into your online course. This is very important because motivation is strongly influenced by the level of interactivity and social engagement that takes place within an online course. Your online students need regular opportunities to interact with you, to interact with each other, and to interact with the course content.

Okay, that about wraps things up. Share your thoughts and comments on this newsletter. And be sure to share this post with interested friends and colleagues using the share buttons below. 

If you have a course design-related question or would like to request a topic for my next newsletter, please get in touch with me via email or my contact page. And be sure to subscribe to my bi-monthly newsletter to get awesome online course design tips delivered right to your inbox.