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Explain the Why and Increase Motivation

Has an eLearning course ever had you reflecting on experiences from your life? Upon completion did you understand the benefit of learning the new content?

Could you say that you knew the ‘why’ behind the learning experience?

"People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it."
- Simon Sinek

For me personally, I know that learning is much more effective when I understand why it will benefit my life. I can recall completing eLearning modules that seemed to have nothing to do with what I was doing in my job and my brain therefore made a conscious decision to let the content go in one ear and out the next. I had more than enough information that I needed to remember and if I didn’t understand how this information was going to benefit me, there was no point in attempting to store it. My aim was to get through the module as quickly as possible and return to life, not to actually learn anything from the content. I was chasing that ‘completed/pass’ status, not the newfound knowledge that was being thrown at me.

If I had known why the learning was important for me and how I could implement it in my day-to-day life, then my brain may have potentially made a different decision. I would have processed the information and potentially attempted to implement it into my job/life, in the hope that it would benefit me in some way. My brain works in the same way when I am scrolling through my Instagram feed, a product that captures my attention will be one that shows me how it can benefit me. For example, I am more likely to purchase a lipstick if the advertisement is an image of someone wearing it and looking great over the lipstick sitting on a table. If I am going to buy a book, I want to hear testimonials from others about how it has benefited their life, not just a photo of the front cover. Show me the benefit or I lose interest!

An example of advertising on instagram is shown above. The photo on the left shows the lipsticks on a table. The photo on the right shows how the lipsticks can benefit you by how awesome they look on an actual person (colourpopcosmetics, 2018).

Gary Vaynerchuk, a serial entrepreneur, is a prime example of explaining the ‘why’. When he releases a new product or content, he puts great effort into explaining to his community ‘why’ it will benefit them. This in turn has supported him in creating a substantial community of followers, followers that want to consume his content because they know ‘why’ it will benefit them (garyvee, 2018). 

When you are designing an eLearning course you would assume that the content is relevant, necessary for your learner and overall should be of some benefit to them. So, if this is the case, how can you show your learner the reason why and allow them to reflect on how it can benefit them in their life?

This is what we recommend for incorporating the ‘why’ into your learning solutions.

1. What was the Intent Again?

This may seem obvious though it is not uncommon for learning solutions to be created without a deep understanding of the ‘why’ or the intent behind the solution. Prior to designing your learning solution, take the time to discover the root cause of the reason the learning is required. If you want to know more about getting to the root cause, check out our series of ‘Systems Thinking’ blogs, you can access the first one here. These blogs take you through a process of gaining an understanding of the reason why learning needs come to fruition, at a deeper level.

Cathy Moore’s ‘Action Mapping’ is another process that we use to do this and it has enabled us to gain a deep understanding of the intent behind our learning solutions prior to designing them.

I won’t go into great detail around how the ‘Action Mapping’ process works because that’s best left to the expert – Cathy. What I will do is suggest you check out her interactive ‘Action Mapping Workflow’ here. If you would like to understand how we suggest you use the model for understanding your learning solutions check out our blog on ‘How Action Mapping can Transform your Learning Solutions’ here.

Once you have a clear understanding of the intent of your learning solution, you can design with this front of mind and also share the intent with your learners, just like Gary Vaynerchuk does when he launches a product or content. Build trust and understanding with your learners so that they will be invested in the learning solution that you launch.

2. Reflection Activities

Incorporating reflection activities throughout your learning enables your learner to connect the content with their world. If you can do this, then the learner is likely to understand ‘why’ they are completing the course and how it can benefit them by making them create their own why.

New information is great, though if you don’t know why it will benefit you or how to use it to your advantage, it can seem pointless. For example, if a learner is completing a course on ‘body language’ you could get them to reflect on the last meeting they attended and what body language they or others were displaying. This connects the learning content to an experience they can relate to and they are more likely to make sense of the information.

I have included an example below of how we included ‘reflection’ in an eLearning project.

The intent of this learning solution was to enable learners to put themselves in the best position to get a job at an organisation. As the intent was solely focused around ‘them as individuals getting a job’, it was important to encourage them to reflect on their situation. We got them to reflect on their skills, experience and how effective their current resume/cover letter was. They could then apply the learnings to their situation and in turn discover ‘why’ the content is of importance to them.

3. Explain the ‘Why’ and Enable Learner Involvement

It can often be as simple as telling the learner why it will be of benefit to them. This can be done through an opening screen of the module or in a real-life situation.

Rather than just sending out the module to your audience without an explanation of why it is important, come up with a way to launch the module so people know why they are doing it.

We designed a learning solution for groundsmen at a school and rather than just sending them the module and telling them they must do it, we got them all in a room and explained the ‘why’. The way the module was designed allowed the groundsmen to partake in group discussions whilst completing it and this allowed them to give the learning content meaning that was relevant to their life. They were able to learn from each other and share experiences of how the learnings had helped them personally.

Those are our top tips for incorporating the ‘why’ into your learning solutions, there are multiple creative ways that you can do this such as an animation, a video, an interview with a leader, the list goes on. The important thing is that you gain a deep of understanding of what the ‘why’ is, design your learning to it and ensure that you share that ‘why’ with your learner.

I hope that these tips add value to your learning solutions. If you have any tips for how you incorporate the ‘why’ into your learning, we would love to hear about it!


@colourpopcosmetics. (2018, May 12). [Photo of Lipsticks on table]. Retrieved from

@colourpopcosmetics. (2018, May 9). [Photo of girl wearing lipstick]. Retrieved from

Gary Vaynerchuk [@Garyvee]. (2018, January 30). [Photograph of Gary Vaynerchuk holding Crushing It Book]. Retrieved from

Moore, C. (2016). Action Mapping Workflow at a Glance. Retrieved from:

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio.

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