Raiders of the Lost ARCS

Maintaining learner engagement is the covenant of instructional design.

John Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design suggests a 4-step process for establishing and maintaining motivation by directly addressing learner attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction.

I find the ARCS model most useful when I correlate each step to an intended “state of mind.” In other words, by how I want to influence the internal dialogue the learner is having with the instructional experience. In the table below, each step corresponds to a learner state of mind:

Don’t think of the ARCS model as an establishing event of instruction, but rather as an ongoing series of interventions. There is no one-and-done to maintaining attention and motivation. Beyond plenitudes of distractions, learner concentration naturally wanes over time.

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina presents the 10-minute attention span rule. Accordingly, learner attention must be re-engaged in regular time intervals.

Learner attention and motivation are lost without ongoing support. Instructional designers must uphold the covenant. The ARCS Model of Motivation provides a starting point to this quest.



Mindy Jackson is Director of Instructional Design at Enspire Studios.