6 Ways You Can Motivate Learners with Rewards or Certificates

People love gold stars. Even though your learners are probably delighted to take your course just because they want to learn the topic, receiving official recognition via a certificate for an achievement is powerfully motivating.

An award for completing a milestone can make the difference between keeping someone in a course and dropping out. Plus, offering something like a certificate of completion for online learning can also help them get a better job, meet employment requirements or earn a promotion.

Here are some best practices you can follow when you want to offer a carrot to people participating in your online course.

  1. Make awards easy to offer. Offering something like a certificate is much easier if you don't have to print it out, sign it and mail it to someone. And then repeat that process in case the learner loses the original copy. The solution is to automate it, for example, a learner earns a certificate by successfully passing an exam.
  2. Attach badges and certificates to skills rather than time. Think about offering a program participant an award for earning a key skill. Some organizations make the mistake of offering recognition based on time spent, which isn't as motivating and doesn't demonstrate knowledge gain.
  3. Make participation with other learners a requirement. A certificate or badge on its own is rarely enough. Make the award dependent on truly experiencing all parts of an online course. This might be working in an online forum, creating community with other learners or reading and using content.
  4. Consult with advisors to create certification program. Start internally when you want to offer a certification program. Ask key people to weigh in on what kinds of skills learners need to earn and how often they need to renew those stills. It will give your program credibility and meaning.
  5. Communicate expectations before the course begins. Mention any incentive you're offering at the very beginning of your promotion process. This will help adoption rates and will keep learners engaged from the start.
  6. Offer other takeaways. A badge or certificate is motivating, but so are other incentives. Bundle your certificate with tools they can use on the job, downloadable toolkit, equipment from partners or sponsors, monetary incentives—even small ones such as a $5 or $10 gift card.

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