The potentials and limitations of our brain shape the way we learn. Professionals, from psychologists to neuroscientists, have started to integrate brain research into online learning.
More specifically, a psychologist by training and education, Dr. Susan Weinschenk takes research and knowledge about the brain and extrapolate UX design principles from that. This post takes the psychologist’s view of UX Design and applies it to eLearning. .
Here at SHIFT, we believe that in order for us to design effective eLearning we need to understand the fundamentals and principles of how we learn. Ay eLearning designers who fails to consider the brain's role misses a lot of opportunity.
Below are 5 psychological principles you can use to build effective eLearning courses:
1) People Don’t Want to Work or Think More Than They Have To
Truth is people will do the least amount of work possible to get a task done. Especially in eLearning, learners just want to get out as quick as possible and then go back to work.
Our brain is designed to focus on or process a limited amount of information. Too much of that amount can make learners become less creative, less productive and less able to make good decisions. Design your course material so that learners can accomplish it at their own pace. Provide them with bits of information. Tell them what they need to know and let them go. Otherwise, they are likely to ignore it or not finish it. Giving learners more thant they need just clutters up the learning experience.
2) People Have Limitations Especially When it Comes to Learning
Cognitive psychologists have found that the brain has its certain limitation in the amount of information it can process at once. When an information enters the brain and enough attention is given to it, it is processed by the long-term memory and stored in the brain along with related information. Similar ideas are grouped together. This is why people can use learning strategies including mnemonic devices and chunking.
Storing new information, however, can be very difficult if there is no relevant information to store it with. So it is likely that those unrelated bits and chunks of information in your course material will be lost before learners can even recall them. Make sure your target learners can relate to the contents of your courses.
3) People Crave Information
Curious people crave information. We all do, since curiosity is a universal trait. Curiosity is especially an important factor in motivating individuals to learn or at least seek information. eLearning developers can utilize or stimulate curiosity by attracting learners’ attention or raising their interest. You can, for instance, present them with more information when they ask for it. As well, the eLearning course should provide them with helpful feedback to tell them at all times what is going on.
4) People are Social Beings Who Learn Better Together
People will always try to use technology to be social, so give them the opportunity to be part of a group. Two heads are better than one. At least three things can happen when a person learns with another person or a group. They can work together, compete with each other (and thus try to do better), or work on their own but share similar goals with other students.
No matter what interaction pattern learners are involved in, they can effectively provide and receive feedback so that they are motivated to learn or at least finish their tasks. People look to others for guidance on what they should do, especially if they are uncertain. Include places on your course for people to be social, whether it is a blog with comments or a forum.
5) People Are Not Distracted When They Are Focused on Something Important
Our brain is wired to pay attention to maximum 3-4 thing at a time, that is, if we allow it to. For course developers, this means learners should be aware of their goals if you want them to accomplish anything. We need to design eLearning to minimize distractions and focus the learner's attention onto a few tasks at a time.
There are many other psychological principles eLearning course developers should be aware of. This a good list to start with if you want to make your materials more effective.