Motivating Online Learners Via Motivational & Encouraging E-Mails

Huett, J., Huett, K., & Kalinowski, K. & Moller, L. (2008) Improving the motivation and retention of online students through the use of ARCS-Based e-Mails. The American Journal of Distance Education. pp. 159-176.

This article explored how providing motivational and encouraging emails to undergraduate students in an online computer course can improve the motivational levels and retention of students. The study revealed that instructional designers may assume that technology based courses will automatically motivate students because technology usually captures people’s interests. However, computer assisted instruction must also be designed with the best online pedagogical strategies and have additional motivational techniques to motivate students consistently. The motivational emails used in this study were structured around Keller’s ARCS Model. J. Huett, K. Huett, K. Kalinowski and L. Moller (2008) describe the ARCS model in the following excerpt: “To stimulate and manage student motivation to learn, Keller (1987a, 1987b, 1987c) created the ARCS model of motivation. ARCS is short for (A)ttention, (R)elevance, (C)onfidence, and (S)atisfaction and serves as the overall framework for the motivational mass e-mail messages used in this study.” (p. 160) This study was designed to determine if ARCS based emails would improve motivation, retention and ARCS of online students. Course interest surveys and course completion data were used to determine the results. The results revealed that students’ attention, confidence, satisfaction and motivation were significantly higher after receiving the motivational emails. However, the relevance factor of ARCS was not higher since the emails were not designed to tell whether the course benefitted students’ professionally or had substantial relevance in their everyday lives. In addition, the students that received motivational emails had higher retention rates, and less withdrawal and failure rates. This study concluded that implementing motivational and encouraging emails with instructional reminders and supportive resources are viable options that can promote higher levels of motivation and retention of online students.

When institutions of higher education take the initiative to provide an extra layer of support to students via motivational emails, students feel a better sense of connection to their schools and higher levels of confidence because the emails show that someone cares about their success. Students who are extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to achieve can both benefit from the emails because they offer helpful reminders of assignments and due dates, as well as points of contacts that can help students with various concerns. This keeps students well-informed of how to navigate through online courses with success and organization, which leads to high levels of motivation and retention. These are important factors to consider when facilitating online education.

As a current doctoral student, I receive motivational emails from Central Michigan University’s online administration and from my professors. The emails help to keep me motivated by offering course announcements, assignment updates, encouraging messages and pulse checks to ensure my success. This extra layer of support helps me to feel like a member of an online learning community, which is encouraging and enhances my learning acquisition.

Related Article:

Bawa, P. (2016) Retention in online courses. Exploring issues and solutions – A literature review. Sage Publishing.