Students, like all human beings, are inherently active and curious. The desire to learn something new, to explore and discover, is intrinsic to the nature of us all. Still, those of us who have been working in the field of teaching for a longer period of time have more than once witnessed students who seem to be completely disinterested from day one, or who lose interest during the course.
There are many theories of what motivates people, but in in our work here at Nesna University College with Project Getting Involved the work on intrinsic motivation and self-determination by Deci and Ryan  was central.
Self-determination theory is an approach to human motivation and personality that investigates the basis for people’s self-motivation and personality integration (Ryan & Deci, .
Motivation was also an important factor for Jewett and Kling : “Our objective, then, is to design a course – select topics, materials, and activities – which will develop the students’ internal motivation toward the course. At the minimum, we want to reach them in a way that will resonate with their own interests. At best, we want each student to have a sense of discovery – to find a new and exciting way of understanding computerization in their personal and professional lives.” Jewett and Kling’s focus on internal and external motivation corresponds with Deci and Ryan’s work on intrinsic motivation and self-determination (Deci & Ryan, ; Ryan & Deci, ).
Many students are naturally enthusiastic about learning, but there are also some that need their instructors to inspire, challenge, and stimulate them. They want to learn, but they also want to feel that learning is meaningful for them and their situation: “Do you, as a teacher, know what meaningful knowledge is? Do you, as a teacher, know what kind of knowledge is important to me as a student? The question is difficult, but if you have no answers, why should I be your student?” (Dale, ).
Unfortunately, there is no single magical answer to these questions, but in my view we are a long way towards an answer if we are able to involve both the hearts and minds of our students.
Read more about this in my article in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology