Harvard Macy Community Blog

Fostering the ongoing connectedness of health professions educators committed to transforming health care delivery and education.

Applying the 6 C’s of Motivation to Online Learning for Health Professionals

 With significant advancements in asynchronous and synchronous distance education technologies, such as videoconferencing, online discussion forums, and digital whiteboards, there is an opportunity to facilitate and enhance collaborative learning among interdisciplinary health professionals. If utilized appropriately, these technologies can provide a platform for open, equitable and accessible knowledge-sharing among health professionals. Learner motivation to participate in, and continue with, online learning programs is strongly affected by instructional design, and there are several instructional design strategies related to the 6 C’s of Motivation learning theory which should be considered when developing online education for interdisciplinary health professionals: 

Choice: There should be a range of course activities which appeal to the variety of student motivational factors. Activities should be linked to short and long-term learning goals and use authentic and active learning approaches. Students should be allowed to choose group members, as long as there are an appropriate variety of disciplines represented in the group to reflect current healthcare team structure.

Challenge: The online learning environment should utilize tools and technologies with which participants are already familiar or can easily become familiar, so that technology is not an obstacle in course completion. While assignments should provide appropriate challenge, they should also reveal the complexity of providing healthcare as an interprofessional team and promote shared decision-making, which can be a difficult process.

Control: Prior to enrollment, it should be clearly communicated what is involved in the course(s), including time commitment and learning objectives so that students can fully understand the expectations and ensure that participation will fit into their demanding schedules and help them achieve their goals. The online learning environment should be structured so that students have as much control as possible to help hold each other accountable for progress toward course learning objectives and team goals. Evaluation of student performance should rely heavily on self-reflection, including discussion of healthcare standards and hot topics. 

Collaboration: The online learning environment should demonstrate that each student is responsible for his/her own learning and also for assisting fellow classmates in their learning process. It should help reduce professional isolation experienced by many health professionals, especially those in rural areas with limited support. In addition, the facilitator/instructor should possess a growth mindset in which they too are learners contributing to the team interactions 

Constructing meaning: Course activities should be designed in order to encourage students to consider why they are engaging in the learning activities and how it helps them achieve their personal and professional goals. Students should be expected to apply the concepts learned and reflect on the relationship to their own professional role demands and an understanding of other professional roles in healthcare.

Consequences: The online learning environment should be a safe place in which student confusion or misunderstanding can be addressed without fear of negative consequences. In addition, students should understand that the course activities they complete will contribute to them being able to make a positive difference in the field of healthcare.

Although formal interprofessional education is required of most health professionals today, there is limited research on providing this type of education in an online environment, even though distance education continues to grow and be a preferred choice for health professionals, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the current restructuring of the healthcare system to be an interprofessional, team-based approach, online learning activities for this target audience should promote collaboration, offer student choice and control, provide appropriate challenge, allow reflection in order to construct meaning, and reinforce positive consequences for student performance.

What instructional design strategies have you used to increase student motivation for health professionals participating in interprofessional, online education?


Did you know that the Harvard Macy Institute Community Blog has had more than 220 posts? Previous blog posts have explored topics including moving beyond drive theory, teaching better with technology, and creating new models for academic publishing.


Author BIO 

Dawn Leberknight, BA is an Instructional Designer working towards her M.Ed. in Educational Technology. Dawn currently holds a position as Curriculum Coordinator at South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium. Dawn’s area of professional interest includes instructional design, online learning, and interprofessional education. Dawn can be followed on Twitter or LinkedIn or contacted via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  


Mentors without Borders: A Global Community of Men...
Training with Mental Practice in the COVID-19 Era


No comments yet
Already Registered? Login Here
Wednesday, 10 August 2022