SHIFT's eLearning Blog

6 Critical Factors that Affect How People Learn

Posted by Karla Gutierrez on Thu, Jun 05, 2014 @ 09:56 AM

A lot of research actually goes into a well-designed eLearning material. And like it or not, instructional designers have to dig deep into the psychology of learners, specifically how they learn and what affects their learning.

Pay attention to these factors if you want to explore more about the subject.

how people learn eLearning

1. Meaningfulness Effect

Quite simply, the more meaningful the content the easier it is to remember. If the content doesn't make sense, learners will have a harder time to learn. That's why it's very important to clearly introduce the value of a certain material before you even begin the course. Don't just tell students what you are about to teach but also emphasize the need to learn.

Here are just some principles you can use to improve retention of the material and help learners make meaning out of the material: association, organization, visualization, familiarity, frequency, rhymes, patterns, and acronyms.

2. Practice Effect

How does active or deliberate practice affect learning? The answer seems pretty obvious but here some of the details you should know.

Active practice or rehearsal enhances retention. But there is one type of practice that yield better learning results. It's called distributed practice, which, in contrast to massed practice, refers to regularly spaced practice exercises. Many studies have already confirmed this. In fact, the National Research Council explained that “the so-called spacing effect—that practice sessions spaced in time are superior to massed practices in terms of long-term retention—is one of the most reliable phenomena in human experimental psychology. The effect is robust and appears to hold for verbal materials of all types as well as for motor skills." 

Distributed or regularly spaced practice is especially beneficial when learning unfamiliar material and during fast presentation rates. Whereas distributed practice enables learners to associate with several contexts, massed practice only allows learners to associate with a single context.

3. Interference Effect 

An interference effect is always negative. It happens when a learner tries to remember an old material previously learned while learning a new material. Such old material impairs the learner's speed of learning and memory performance.

The learner may, for instance, confuse both old and new material that have some similiarity between each other. He or she may use "historic" interchangeably with "historical" or "inept" with "inapt." Or, put simply, have problems with distinguishing similar concepts.

This case of memory interference can cause students to forget even those items they remembered clearly for years. The good news is, there are at least two ways to effectively combat the effect:

  • Adhering to the minimum information principle (which we have already discussed in one of our articles)
  • Describe concepts or express statements as clearly as possible

4. Transfer Effect

Transfer effect takes place when previous learning or old material makes new learning easier. When old and new tasks or material have more in common, a transfer effect is likely to happen.
 
The effect is not always positive though. Here are three types of transfer effect you should watch out for. 

  • Positive Transfer: When prior learning or training aids in acquiring a new skill or finding a solution to a new problem, positive transfer occurs. The learner performs better than he or she would have without previous learning.
  • Negative Transfer: Negative transfer is the exact opposite of the previous item. It takes place when prior learning or training makes it difficult to acquire a new skill or learn a new material. The learner would have learned or performed well had he or she not been exposed to the previous training.
  • Zero Transfer: This is a neutral situation where prior training neither improves nor impedes the acquisition of a new skill or learning of a new material.

Take note that combination of negative and positive transfer can take place during the process of learning. 

5. Levels-of-Processing Effect

The more deeply a learner processes the content, the better he or she will remember it. This deep level of processing also enhances memory by helping the learner create more meaningful knowledge.

This effect, which was identified by Fergus I. M. Craik and Robert S. Lockhart in 1972, illustrates how the depth of mental process falls on a shallow to deep continuum. Shallow processing is susceptible to rapid deterioration, while deep processing leads to a more durable and stronger memory trace.

Watch this video for further explanation. 

6. Text-Organization Effect

The concept refers to the effects that the structural elements of the course have on the information learners encode and remember. This effect relies on the fact that learners’ comprehension is influenced by the text structure used to convey the information. Moreover, it assumes that our brains like the organization of information, which is why chapters, outlines and sections are highly recommended as an instructional method.

There are many other structural elements of ways of organizing text that produce such an effect: advanced organizers, logical sequencing, highlighting of main ideas, use of bullets or numbers, and summaries. All of them aid learners in chunking and retaining information. They also point learners to the most important aspects of the material.

Source: Factor Affecting Learning. Hari Srinivas 

 

 

Tags: eLearning, how people learn