Self-Determination Theory

Judy:  Why are you in a mood today?

Nick:  I’m frustrated

Judy:  Why are you frustrated?

Nick:  Because people keep asking me questions

Judy:  Rubbish!  What’s the real reason

Nick:  The boss wants me to take the quality course and I really want to do the conflict resolution one.

Judy:  Be better if he let you do the one you really wanted to do.  Get a better result.

You want your learners to approach your eLearning course as a training they WANT to take, and NOT something they are being made to sit through.

The self-determination theory focuses on the human being’s natural tendencies and psychological needs.  The theory deals with three basic needs, Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness.  These needs are the same regardless of culture, gender and profession.

Your Modlettes should be designed to appeal to these three basic needs:


Freedom is a fundamental urge of human beings.

Your learners will feel more eager to take a Modlette when they know they have their hand on the steering wheel,

They will be more responsive to content if they know they have the freedom to make choices.


Adult learners want to feel they are able to complete challenging tasks appropriate to their job roles.  They like to make decisions and feel confident in the knowledge that they are doing what they are supposed to.

As a Modlette designer, you have to instil this confidence in your learners.  You have to help them believe in themselves.


We all want to belong and experience the pleasure of caring for others.  The idea of relatedness is basic to human existence.

This means you should design Modlettes that connect learners to other participants and mentors as in an online community.

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