International Forum of Educational Technology & Society

Formal Discussion Initiation

Motivation and hygiene as a framework for eLearning practice

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Time schedule:
Discussion: March 29 - April 7, 2004
Summing-up: April 8-9, 2004

Mark Nichols
Bible College of New Zealand, New Zealand



In the mid 1960s management theorist Frederick Herzberg made a discovery that changed the way in which people understood motivation in the workplace. Some forty years later, Herzberg’s (1966) motivation and hygiene principle finds an interesting application in eLearning practice. His work provides a different frame of reference for considering the advantages and potential for eLearning for education.

eLearning is frequently acclaimed as enabling education that is more accessible (available to students), effective (better for their learning) and efficient (cheaper for an institution to provide). Herzberg’s framework provides eLearning practitioners with an opportunity to consider how these advantages might best be realized and how eLearning expenditure might be maximised.

Herzberg interviewed 200 engineers and accountants and asked them about one positive and one negative work experience they had encountered. He then probed their answers to find out what was behind each experience. Herzberg discovered a group of ‘satisfiers’ that were generally responsible for positive experiences, and a set of ‘dissatisfiers’ that were generally responsible for negative workplace experiences. He further noted that a lack of ‘satisfiers’ did not generally result in negative experiences and that a positive experience of the ‘dissatisfiers’ did not result in positive experiences. As Herzberg (2002, 76) stated “The opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction but no job satisfaction; and similarly the opposite of job dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction.”

Satisfaction leads to a positive workplace contribution. Dissatisfaction on the other hand leads to decreased productivity and less commitment to the workplace.


Motivation and hygiene

Identifying satisfiers and dissatisfiers led Herzberg to determine motivation and hygiene factors that employers could apply to improve employee satisfaction in the workplace. The motivating factors are those that describe the workers relationship to what he or she does, while the dissatisfiers relate to the context within which the work is performed. Motivation factors increase motivation if they are present; hygiene factors cause dissatisfaction if they are absent. By way of example, giving employees responsibility provides them with motivation as it is a motivation factor. If employees are not given responsibility, they are not motivated but neither are they dissatisfied. On the other hand, paying employees more (salary, a hygiene factor) will not cause them to be motivated but unless the salary is adequate employees will be dissatisfied.

Table One summarises Herzberg’s findings.

Satisfiers (motivation factors)

Dissatisfiers (hygiene factors)

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • The nature of the work itself
  • Responsibility
  • Advancement
  • Company policy and administration
  • Supervision
  • Salary
  • Interpersonal relations with supervisor
  • Working conditions


Table One – Motivation and hygiene factors in the workplace


Of these, the nature of the work itself, responsibility and advancement caused the most long-lasting motivation. Herzberg’s theory has been confirmed by a number of parallel studies in different industries.


eLearning’s motivation and hygiene factors

Herzberg’s theory is of interest to eLearning because it provides important clues for practice. Exchanging employment for education and employees for students, the following motivation and hygiene factors are proposed.

Satisfiers (motivation factors)

Dissatisfiers (hygiene factors)

  • Enthusiasm and commitment of educators.
  • Feedback and academic mentoring from tutors.
  • Serendipity.
  • A sense of community.
  • Clear expectations.
  • Prompt assignment return.
  • Reliable LMS technology.
  • Flexibility and control.
  • Institutional policies and procedures.


Table Two – Proposed motivation and hygiene factors for education


In Herzberg’s framework the motivation factors are those that increase satisfaction if they are present but generally do not lead to dissatisfaction if they are absent. Hygiene factors however cannot motivate but cause dissatisfaction if they are absent. If the proposed motivation and hygiene factors are accurate, the following generalizations can be made about eLearning.


Implications for practice

As a general conclusion, the following comments can be made with regard to access, effectiveness and efficiency of eLearning. These have a general application to eLearning decision making.


Discussion questions

  1. Are the motivation and hygiene factors proposed for education accurate? What research might confirm them or suggest otherwise?
  2. Is there a valid link between satisfaction and success in student learning?
  3. Is it accurate to consider ‘access’ as a hygiene factor, ‘effectiveness’ as reliant on motivating factors, and efficiency gains best possible at the expense of hygiene factors?



Herzberg, F. (1966). Work and the nature of man. Cleveland and New York: The Word Publishing Company.


About moderator

Mark Nichols is the Director of Course Design, Centre for Distance Learning, Bible College of New Zealand.

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