The science of learning isn’t often considered by L&D professionals. I have noticed that many fail to remember that learning is a physical process and when learning, the new knowledge is causes structural changes in the brain. It is important that learning professionals need to understand the science of learning, to help aid our design decisions.
To create truly successful digital learning, we need to be well informed about the science of attention, emotion, and memory. So, let’s explore the basics of these areas now:
- Grab your learner’s attention
I take inspiration from lots of sources, such as TV, films, comic books, magazines and even social media – to create incredible digital learning. Where is it written that your user interface cannot be inspired or based on social media or a TV show that you watched? Or the plot of your interactive eLearning module from a film you watched last weekend? The possibilities are endless if you think outside the box. In fact, a lot of this “familiarity” of context will also lead to retaining the information more too. From my research it also shows us that there are two key ‘peaks’ in learner attention throughout a digital learning course: at the beginning, and at the end. So, as learning designers we need to design to utilise these peaks and flatten the curve between the two. This is easy to do when utilising the tools in our eLearning toolkit, such as video, graphics, audio, and animation.
- The role of emotion in learning
The science of learning has taught us that there are four key ‘knowledge’ emotions:
It goes without saying, emotions are an important group and facilitate learning, exploring, and reflecting. Each of these emotions help lock in knowledge into long-term memory, due to their level of novelty, complexity, and unfamiliarity. By mixing and matching these features with the learner’s ability to understand, and you’ll find some really creative ways to teach your learners.
The core thing about what we do is to deliver new information to learners, in an easy-to-digest way, which promotes recall. If a learner hits the pass mark in our end-of-course assessment, we think our job is done. Wrong! Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve shows that learners forget information quite rapidly. But repeating content time and time again strengthens the neural pathway, allowing the newly learned task (or knowledge recall) to become automatic. A great example of this is driving a car. Do you remember the first time you sat behind a steering wheel? I bet you were likely confused, nervous and overwhelmed. All these switches, and knobs etc, when do I indicate, should I look in my mirrors now etc. It was all new – and scary. But now, I bet everytime when you jump in your car to pop to go to the shops, you drive almost without giving the actual driving any thought at all. That’s because your neural pathway has been strengthened for this task.
Anyways, food for thought everyone.