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Motivation leads to engagement with a course, and is often divided into extrinsic, and intrinsic.


Extrinsic motivation is about external rewards, like:

  • Grades
  • Social approval, from friends, family, instructors, and others
  • Prediction of future rewards, like salary

The last is an internal state, but it's still about external rewards.

Authors can explain some of these things in lessons. "Why should you care about this topic?" discussions are commonplace. Skilling offers no particular advantage in delivering this information, except for the possibility of customizing messages for different students. For example, students in different majors could see different information. You can read about adaptive explanations.


We've all had the experience of finding a topic interesting in itself, beyond the level of extrinsic rewards. You can include optional activities in a course for intrinsically motivated students.

How do you identify such students, particularly in an online course? Skilling can help. Here's an example from the page on adaptive explanations. It checks whether a student completes their work faster than the course requires.

  condition = [course:days-since-start] < 50
              and [course:exercises-submitted-count] > 30

  Hey! You're making great progress! Thanks for
  your extra effort!

  You should think about the data analytics
  major. You might enjoy it. Check it out at [URL].


This is not program code. It's text an author types in, to identify students with high intrinsic motivation, and give them a special message. The syntax takes some getting used to, but it lets authors write lessons that adapt themselves to students.

Chances of success

It seems obvious that high motivation would lead to effort and success, and it does. However, the reverse is also true. That is, motivation depends on success. If you succeed at some early exercises, you might predict that you will be able to do well in the course, so investing effort is worthwhile. If you fail early on, you might decide that you can't succeed, and stop trying.

Some writers suggest giving students "easy victories" at the start of a course. That's particular helpful for complex skills like programming, where some students might not have confidence in their ability to succeed.

Skilling's task and feedback systems helps. Skilling courses usually have a sequence of many exercises. That makes it fairly easy to arrange for some easy victories.