The Impact Of Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs In eLearning

The Impact Of Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs In eLearning
Summary: Motivation is what fuels us. It is what drives us to achieve our goals and be our best selves. It also happens to be a powerful tool in eLearning. In this article, I'll discuss the impact that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has in eLearning, so that you can put its principles into practice in your next eLearning course.

How To Use Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs In eLearning

Maslow believed that individuals are all motivated by intrinsic factors, rather than tangible rewards or unmet desires. In his pursuit to discover what makes people truly “tick”, Maslow realized that we are all driven by very specific needs. Regardless of our economic status or cultural background, every human being seeks to fulfill more basic needs before moving to the next. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs features five distinct levels. The ones at the bottom are the essentials, such as food and water, while those at the top involve needs related to social status and esteem.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a natural fit for eLearning, thanks to the fact that learners must first have their lower needs addressed before they become active and engaged participants in the eLearning experience. As such, eLearning pros need to ensure that the basics are covered before diving into the educational process.

The Pinnacle: Achieving Self-Actualization

The top level of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid is self-actualization. This is the pinnacle need that can only be reached when all of other base needs are met. Self-actualized individuals are fulfilled in virtually all aspects of their lives and are doing everything in their power to achieve success. According to Maslow, self-actualization is not a concrete destination, but a fluid state wherein individuals are constantly striving to do better and be better. Though they understand what is important to them and what makes them feel happy and content, they know that goal setting and achievement is a never-ending process.

There is no one particular definition of self-actualization, as everyone has their pinnacle that they create for themselves. While one person might want to reach the upper echelons within their company, others might believe that true success is finding the ideal work-life balance. Maslow also suggested that there are “peak experiences” throughout life, which are characterized by feelings of joy and euphoria.

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How Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs Affects eLearning

To fully understand the impact of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in eLearning, it is important to delve into each of the needs featured in the pyramid. Once each need has been met, the learner can then move onto the next step, eventually making their way to self-actualization.

  1. Physiological Needs.
    These are the most basic needs that we have as human beings, such as making sure we have enough food and water to sustain us or a sufficient supply of oxygen to breathe. Typically, learners already have these needs taken care of when they participate in eLearning experiences. However, it is still essential to include plenty of breaks and offer a more flexible schedule so that busy learners ensure they all of the necessities checked off their list. Otherwise, they may skip the eLearning course in order to fulfill this lower need.
  2. Security Needs.
    This particular need typically pertains to personal security, such as having shelter above one’s head or ensuring that they are safe from bodily harm. However, it can also come into play in eLearning environments. The key is to create a supportive and calm setting that doesn’t trigger their security needs. You can do this by using stress relieving background music in your eLearning course, calming them with colors, or utilizing imagery that makes them feel safe and secure. Another way to take care of their security needs is to create a support system that allows them to address their questions and concerns quickly, such as an email contact form or online discussion board.
  3. Social Needs.
    Taking care of a learner’s social needs can be tricky in traditional online learning environments. However, if you incorporate social learning activities and resources into your eLearning strategy you can fulfill this need and make the learning experience more interactive and engaging. Develop group collaboration projects where learners must work together to complete an online assignment, such as developing a blog or presentation. Encourage them discuss key topics with their peers on social media pages and online forums. Give them plenty of opportunities to connect and communicate with other learners to avoid feelings of isolation.
  4. Esteem Needs.
    Learners must feel confident and capable in order to fulfill their esteem needs. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by developing their emotional intelligence. This increases self-awareness and allows them to hone their skills by getting in tune with their emotions and feeling as though they are in control of the eLearning experience. Empowerment is key here. Allow them to choose which online exercise they complete and when, and give them praise when they successfully complete a task.
  5. Self-Actualization Needs.
    Self-actualization is not easy to come by. In fact, some people spend all of their lives striving for the top tier on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs without succeeding. To help learners become self-actualized, we must encourage them to set realistic goals and track their progress along the way. Offer them reflection online activities that prompt them to think about their current beliefs and question their current assumptions. As eLearning professionals, it is our responsibility to give them the tools and knowledge they need to realize their true potential and purpose, so that they can then strive toward their own personal definition of success.

Keep in mind that self-actualization is a fluid state. When learners achieve their goals, they will inevitably seek to create and pursue new endeavors. However, it’s important to stress the fact that they should savor their successes before embarking on the next educational adventure.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is so effective because it serves our most basic human needs. Once we have the essential elements of each step in place, we can move toward the top tier and eventually achieve our personal and professional goals.

Intrinsic motivation is the basis for Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in eLearning, as it is governed by internal driving factors rather than external rewards. Read the article Intrinsic Motivation In Online Training to learn how you can use intrinsic motivation to transform your next online training deliverable.