Top tips for keeping learners motivated

The future is coming fast. To meet it, your staff have to skill up just as quickly. The World Economic Forum reports that 94% of business leaders expect employees to pick up new skills. But reskilling isn’t always for everyone and it can be tough to get people motivated to learn.

So, how do you keep learners engaged when they’re upskilling? This article explores what motivates learners and some best practices for keeping learners engaged. We take inspiration from Totara’s ebook The Learner Social Contract to help guide you through incentivising learner engagement respectfully and effectively.


You know your staff should be learning, but how do you engage them and motivate them to learn? This question will haunt learning designers long into the future, but the first thing to understand is that not every learner will be naturally excited to reskill. While some learners are motivated by challenge and curiosity, others need the push of a good grade or high score to keep them engaged and on-task. 

In that case, what do you do? Keep reading for three new ideas for keeping your learners engaged and motivated.

1. Design for relevance

The workday stops for no one and your learner’s time is precious. Keep your learners interested with relevant content which applies to them. If they don’t seem keen on the content, find out why. Some questions you might ask include:

  • Will my learners use this information?
  • What value do they get from this knowledge?
  • How will they apply this information?

If there’s little value to the learning and it’s not going to be applied anywhere, it might be time to delve deeper into what skills your learners will need. A neat way of doing this is finding out when your learners stop engaging. Is there an activity nobody wants to complete, or a course people don’t spend the time to take? The courses nobody takes are likely the courses that aren’t relevant. 

2. Incorporate varied, bite-sized learning

In The Learner Social Contract, Totara writes that “Not everything needs to be a course.” Bite-sized learning allows learners to upskill in the time between meetings, on their daily commute, or while waiting in line, without sacrificing their already busy schedule. They’re motivated to learn because it’s quick and efficient, and it can be done at the point of need.

Some ideas for learning that aren’t building a course include:

  • Articles
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • eBooks 

In Totara Engage, one component of Totara’s Talent Experience Platform, curating and sharing this kind of content is easier than ever. The playlist feature is a convenient way to share varied content on a similar theme. These playlists can be public for everyone to see or private while you’re still working on them. Curating playlists for learners to browse at the point of need allows them to take control of their learning—and they won’t need to enrol in a course to do it.

3. Design with intent

Online learning doesn’t have to mean an online class. Think outside the box when considering your learners’ needs. Does your learning really need to be a Zoom class with a facilitator, or can you bring something new to the experience?

To answer this question, we need to again consider the things that motivate learners. People who are intrinsically motivated to learn will be excited about the content that is relevant to them—they learn for the challenge and to satisfy their curiosity. But what do you do about the people who need a bigger push?

Gamifying content is a novel way of helping those who need extrinsic motivation to learn. If you choose to gamify content, you’ll need to think about what motivates your learners and design to meet that need. In a previous article, we discussed the different types of gamers, and how you can design for them using your LMS. Check it out here.

What next?

Employees of the future need to skill up to stay in demand. The motivation to reskill, however, might not always be there. To keep your learners engaged and motivated, we take into account what motivates learners and suggest three ways learning designers can keep learners learning. If you’re interested in keeping the ball rolling on engagement, why not check out Totara’s guide to learning-based employee engagement strategies?

Ready to talk to an expert? Talk to Androgogic, Totara’s Top APAC Seller.