Psychologists have identified two distinct forms of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation refers to an inherent interest in pursing a topic (“learning for learning’s sake”). These individuals find a subject enjoyable and they naturally desire to learn mastery of it.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to a desire to pursue a subject for reasons outside of the individual, such as rewards, grades, parental or instructor approval, etc. These individuals are motivated to learn a subject not because they want to learn it, but because learning the material will get them good grades, parental praise, or because jobs in that field pay well; all of which are external rewards.

Source: University of Notre Dame

Here we explore why the pillars of motivation assessed in the app are important:

Are the students interested in the core topics covered by the course?

The “Interest” pillar takes into account two main tendencies that individuals may have towards the interest in material; it is indeed possible to find individuals with a general interest attitude towards things (individual interest), or people who show an interest in a specific topic in particular (situational interest).

Source: Schiefele, 2009

Is it clear how the course is helping the students achieving their personal and professional goals?

The “Goal” pillar refers to the extent to which the course is providing the skills that students expect concerning their personal or professional goals. Perceiving a clear correlation between the content of the course and the students’ objectives, whether personal or professional, is a determining factor for individual motivation. In other words, it represents the clarity of the “why” a subject should be learnt.

Source: Gollwitzer & Moskowitz, 1996

Are the students exposed to new concepts?

The “Exposure” pillar refers to the level up to which the individual perceives that the content of the course is enriching him/her, in terms of acquiring new skills and abilities. The learning of new concepts highlights any gaps in the student’s portfolio of competences and it can hence stimulate individual curiosity and motivation.

Source: Murayama, et al. 2018

Do the students perceive their learning path as effective?

The “Learning progress” pillar refers to the influence that an effective learning process can have on students personal motivation. In particular, individuals’ awareness to be growing and improving throughout the learning experience fulfils the human need of experiencing a sense of competence; hence, it has a positive influence on satisfaction and, consequently, on individual motivation.

Source: Self-determination (Deci & Ryan, 2000)

Do the students feel capable to overcome any problems that may arise during the course?

The “Sense of Control” pillar represents the student’s level of control, meant as the ability to manage one’s own learning process independently. In particular, it refers to the student’s ability to independently solve problematic situations s/he may encounter during the learning experience (e.g. gaps in their skills, difficult provided material, trainer’s unavailability for clarification).

Source: Self-determination (Deci & Ryan, 2000)

Are the students driven by internal or external factors?

The “Motivation” pillar is aimed to analyse student’s orientation in terms of extrinsic or intrinsic motivation toward learning. Being extrinsically or intrinsically motivated can make a big difference in the overall student’s approach and can affect dramatically his/her effort and final results.

Source: Deci, 1971; Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1971

Do the students feel confident about the tasks they have been assigned?

The “self-Confidence” pillar refers to how the students report higher levels of engagement when they feel up to the task at hand, i.e. when it is not overly complicated. Furthermore, with a significant degree of self-confidence, the individual believes that a type of reward (whether intrinsic or extrinsic) can derive from the performance of the task, which is therefore worth completing.

Source: Wigfield & Eccles, 2000

Have the students created constructive relationships within the course?

The “Social interactions” pillar refers to the relationships that are built within a course. From a sociological perspective, positive interactions between peers potentially improve students’ academic achievement, career choices, or labour market outcomes later in life.

Source: Telhaj, S., 2018

Can the students have open conversations with the professor?

The “Trust” pillar indicates the degree of trust that the student places in the professor’s figure as an educational leader. The professor’s ability to inspire, guide, and educate the students contributes to establishing a relationship of deep mutual trust.

Source: Self-determination (Deci & Ryan, 2000)

Do the students perceive a right balance between their skills and the difficulty of the course?

The “Flow” pillar refers to a particular emotional state where the student finds him/herself completely engaged to the task and fully immersed in the moment; the experience of deep involvement and devotion to specific activities occurs when the student perceives a perfect balance between the level of challenge and his/her own capabilities, crucial to overcome potential obstacles.

Source: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1990