Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Monica W. Tracey



May 2013

Advisor: Dr. Monica W. Tracey

Major: Instructional Technology

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

This research study examined the effects of strategically designed motivational emails using the instructional design strategy ARCS (Keller, 1987abc) for first year students in a face to face setting. A design based research approach applying a mixed study of quantitative and qualitative research methods was taken. Quantitative and qualitative data in terms of student motivation and perceptions of the motivational emails were collected through three iterative design cycles. A multiple choice comprehensive pre test and post test were given to students to detect different levels of motivation, and student perceptions were captured through self-report surveys.

The literature review incorporated a funnel strategy covering the overarching topic of human motivation and narrowing to the specific instructional strategy of motivational emails. Specifically, the first section discussed the pertinent historical theories over the last 50 years including the foundational definitions of motivation. The second section placed the ARCS motivational instructional design strategy within the instructional design literature. And finally, the third section compiled the reasoning behind the motivational message research study results that were included in the design of this study.

The sample for this study was undergraduate students enrolled in two face to face classes within the School of Business Administration at Wayne State University. Students were randomly selected using SPSS and half of the students in the sample were selected to be in the experimental group and the other half of students were selected to be in the control group. Students in the experimental group received four motivational emails designed with student feedback throughout the semester. As students in the experimental group received motivational emails they were sent surveys to collect real-time feedback about the design of the emails and the current motivational needs of the students in order to inform the design of the next motivational email. Once data was collected for each email, feedback from the students was immediately incorporated in order to meet the real-time motivational needs of undergraduate students.

Findings from the study were mixed as a t-test completed in SPSS which compared the motivational levels between the experimental group and control group was not significant, indicating that students were not motivated by the emails. However, the qualitative data collected throughout the semester showed a different story and indicated that students were in fact motivated by the motivational emails.

This was the first empirical study to use motivational emails and the Course Interest Survey, supplemented with qualitative surveys for the students identified as most motivated and least motivated at a university. An important finding of this study is that students are motivated many ways. Instructors need to be aware of who their students are and use motivational strategies to meet their individual needs.