When it comes to eLearning, you can either use positive or negative feedback to keep them on track. Both are useful, but in this post, we’ll focus on using positive reinforcement.

Why? Because we like reinforcement that cheers the learner on—it says, “Hey, nice job—keep up the good work!” rather than, “That’s wrong dummy, try again.”

Obviously one is more enjoyable to receive than the other. Let’s look at the nuts and bolts and then dive into how you can use it within instructional design.

What is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement uses rewards and/or praise to encourage desirable behaviors, and thus increases the likelihood it will be repeated in the future.

Think of it like giving your dog a cookie when he learns to sit. Good behavior = positive reward. When used repeatedly, it helps the learner remember to do the correct behavior so they get that same positive reinforcement over and over.

Pretty simple stuff, but really powerful—and psychologists have proven it as an effective learning tactic.

How to Use Positive Reinforcement in Instructional Design

We know you’re smart, and that we don’t need to tell you that praising the learner for successfully completing an exercise or correctly answering a question should result in some sort of celebration. Duh.

But you can take things a step further to make your positive reinforcement unique and highly effective.

  1. Use a badge system

By allowing learners to earn more badges or achieve higher status levels each time they correctly answer, you tap into a learner’s natural competitive spirit—and make the positive reinforcement more fun and engaging. This can also be leveraged to help learners track their progress throughout a course.

  1. Make it fast

Positive reinforcement needs to happen right away for it to be effective. Therefore, think about how you can establish trigger-based praise for correct answers, completion, etc.

  1. Incorporate humor

It’s one thing to give a basic, “Good job!” as positive reinforcement, but it’s another when you can make it funny. Not only does humor make your positive reinforcement more memorable, but also it can help motivate learners to push through to see what funny reward they’ll get next.

For example: If a learner answers a true/false question with a correct true response, you might tie in a quick gif that references pop culture, like this one.

  1. Go big for winning streaks

Learners will come to expect the standard positive reinforcement over time, so mix things up with a larger celebration for correct answer streaks, a high score, etc. Cue the course confetti and make the learner feel like he/she accomplished something big.

Use Positive Reinforcement in Instructional Design for Happier, Better-Trained Teams

With your knowledge of out-of-the-box ways to use positive reinforcement, your learners will reap the benefits if you tie them into your courses. There will still be instances where you may want to use negative feedback, but try to keep a steady flow of positive cues going, too.