Show Menu

Keller: ARCS Model Motivational Design Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


The ARCS Model consists of four conceptual categories related to human motivation as well as a set of specific strategies which may be used to improve the general motiva­tional aspects of a course of study. It also makes use of Keller’s process called motiva­tional design.

Expect­anc­y-value theory, based on the work of Tolman (1932) and Lewin (1938), provides the foundation of ARCS. "­Exp­ect­anc­y-value theory assumes that people are motivated to engage in an activity if it is perceived to be linked to the satisf­action of personal needs (the value aspect), and if there is a positive expectancy for success (the expectancy aspect­)" (Keller, 1987, pp. 2-3). Keller separated "­val­ue" into two catego­ries: "­int­ere­st,­" which refers to attent­ion­-re­lated issues, and "­rel­eva­nce­," which refers to matters of perceived benefit and useful­ness. He added a category for "­out­com­es" to cover the applic­ation of applied reinfo­rcement and enviro­nmental outcomes that contribute to intrinsic motiva­tion. Interest, relevance, expectancy and outcomes subseq­uently became attention, relevance, confidence and satisf­action respec­tively, giving rise to the acronym ARCS.

The ARCS Model

The ARCS Model incorp­orates a systematic seven-step approach to the design process (Keller, 1997) which has been revised and refined based on further study (see Keller, 1999). This process can be summarized as define, design, develop, and evaluate. According to Keller, it is approp­riate to use the ARCS Model "if the problem is one of improving the motivation appeal of instru­ction for a given audien­ce" (Keller, 1987, p. 6).

A principle applic­ation of this system is to identify areas in which motiva­tional strategies are approp­riate. As mentioned earlier, overuse of motiva­tional strategies can interfere with a student’s intrinsic interest in a subject. The motiva­tional design process requires an audience analysis to decide which motiva­tional tactics are approp­riate. Keller points out, "­Learner motivation changes over time, however, and sometimes in unpred­ictable ways" (1999, p. 42). According to Keller, "When students are motivated to learn, they want to work on highly task-r­elevant activi­ties. They do not want to be distracted with unnece­ssary motiva­tional activi­ties. For this reason it would be nice to have computer or multimedia software that can sense a learner’s motivation level and respond adapti­vel­y."



Many simple techniques can be used to get attention, but the difficulty lies in sustaining attention. "The goal is to find a balance between boredom and indiff­erence versus hypera­ctivity and anxiet­y" (Keller, 1987, p. 3).


Perceived relevance with regard to schoolwork or future career goals may or may not be present intrin­sically in a given course of study. Keller holds that a perception of relevance can come from the method of instru­ction, whether or not it is inherent in the content.


Whether one succeeds or not, regardless of external factors or innate ability, depends to a great degree on one’s feelings of confidence in the possib­ility of success. This can partic­ularly affect a student’s persis­tence. Keller points out that "fear of failure is often stronger in students than teachers realiz­e" (Keller, 1987, p. 5). The Confidence strategies offered by ARCS are designed to help create the impression that some degree of success is possible given an approp­riate effort on the part of the learner. Keller cautions, however, that it is important to "­avoid creating this impression if it is false,­" thereby setting up unreal­istic expect­ations.


According to operant condit­ioning theory, the definition of task and reward, together with an approp­riate reinfo­rcement schedule, should cause people to be more motivated. A problem can arise if the use of these techniques is perceived to intrude on the student’s rightful sphere of control. This is partic­ularly likely to happen when the activities in question are those from which the student derives intrinsic satisf­action. "A challenge is to provide approp­riate contin­gencies without over contro­lling, and to encourage the develo­pment of intrinsic satisf­act­ion­" (Keller, 1987, p. 6).