The ARCS Model

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, a theory is “an idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain facts or events,” and a model is “a set of ideas and numbers that describe the past, present, or future state of something (such as an economy or a business)” (Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, n.d.). Jihyn Lee and Seonyoung Jang (2014) describe models as follows: “In a general sense, models are simplified representations of reality, which includes factors, structures, functions, systems, tasks, events, orders, or processes. An ID model, then, can be defined as a set of core factors and tasks by which instructions can be designed. As a systematic tool, an ID model assists designers in understanding related instructional variables and/or guides them through the process of analyzing, designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating instructional products. In this sense, an ID model can provide guidance on both conceptual and procedural levels, and can serve as an essential component of ID theory” (p. 743). With these definitions in mind, I see an instructional design theory as a broad set of ideas intended to explain how people learn and an instructional design model as a more basic and concrete map, helping to guide an instructional designer’s process in designing an effective learning experience.

Both ID models and ID theories are effective and necessary in an instructional designer’s work, and the distinction is important so that an instructional designer doesn’t seek a step-by-step process in a theory or a broad set of principles in a model. A client may be interested in such differentiation if both a model and a theory are presented in a design document, and providing applicable supporting evidence for each may help convince the client to accept the design.

One model that I recently learned about is called the ARCS model. It was created by John Keller, who defined the model in his 1983 article titled “Motivational design of instruction.” I wasn’t able to get a copy of this article, but I was able to obtain a copy of a different article written by him titled “First principles of motivation to learn and e3-learning.” In it, John Keller (2008) describes the model’s theoretical foundation in the “first principles of motivation that are common to all learning settings:” “In brief, we can say that in order to have motivated students, their curiosity must be aroused and sustained; the instruction must be perceived to be relevant to personal values or instrumental to accomplishing desired goals; they must have the personal conviction that they will be able to succeed; and the consequences of the learning experience must be consistent with the personal incentives of the learner” (p. 176). The ARCS model was developed to represent this theory; it helps guide instructional designers in motivational design. The letters in the acronym stand for each principle listed in the aforementioned quote: attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction.

The instructional design model that I’m most familiar with is the ADDIE model. The ARCS model is different from ADDIE in that it focuses on only the motivational factors of learning instead of the entire instructional design process. It is similar in that it is also an acronym that guides the instructional designer in designing learning. I can see the ARCS model in being helpful in the design of the course I’m working on for CECS 5510. I want my course to motivate students to read literature, and if I can capture the students’ attention, make the content relevant, maintain the students’ confidence, and help them meet their learning goals, then my course will be that much more successful.


Keller, J. M. (2008). First principles of motivation to learn and e3-learning. Distance Education, 29(2), 175-185.

Lee, J., & Jang, S. (2014). A methodological framework for instructional design model development: Critical dimensions and synthesized procedures. Educational Technology Research and Development, 62(6), 743-765.

Model. (n.d.). In Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, Retrieved September 13, 2015, from

Theory. (n.d.). In Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, Retrieved September 13, 2015, from


Revising My Design Document

This week, my peers in CECS 5510 and I are to reflect on our experiences revising our instructional design documents based on peer feedback. The peer who reviewed my design document was very kind in his feedback and could not find much to critique. However, the two suggestions that he did provide did help me improve my design.

The first was a question regarding the Common Core State Standards. I referenced the standards in my Purpose, and his question made me realize that I should elaborate on what the Common Core State Standards are for those who are not familiar with them. The second suggestion helped me incorporate environmental aids for visually impaired students. With online technology becoming more prevalent in education and the Department of Justice’s ever growing dedication to enforcing ADA in online educational environments, it is more important than ever to make accommodations for students with disabilities (Cooley LLP, 2015). Applying my peer’s recommendation, I added a Braille version of Fahrenheit 451 and a screen reader to the environment for students who may need them.

My instructor also provided some helpful feedback in improving my design document. He recommended that I format my citations in APA format, eliminate the use of first person, avoid ending a paragraph with a citation, and reconsider my chosen assessment for one more aligned with my chosen learning theory. He also recommended that I provide a more thorough discussion regarding my course’s learning theory, purpose, and problem. He reminded me that because this document is oftentimes the only thing that gets to the decision maker, it needs to provide a good argument for its approval.

After seeing the detailed and well-supported descriptions provided in the design document that I peer reviewed, I clearly saw how my design document was lacking. In writing the first draft of my design document, I had simply followed the formatting I had submitted for CECS 5210, and the instructor for that class had not taken the time to provide the helpful feedback that Dr. Faulkner provided.  I revised my design document with Dr. Faulkner’s comments in mind, and I can now see how much stronger my design document is. There is always room for improvement, and I am grateful that in my final semester in this master’s program, I have a professor who will help me improve.


Cooley LLP. (2015). DOJ puts pressure on schools and ed techs to provide accessible educational technology. Retrieved from