eLearning Design

The science of learning design



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The science of learning design

The science of learning isn’t often considered by L&D professionals. 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 we, as learning professionals, understand the science of learning, to aid our design process.

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:


1. Grab your learner’s attention

We live in an increasingly media-rich world, which many L&D professionals see as a hindrance to success. But here at Omniplex, we take inspiration from popular media outlets, such as TV, film, or social media – to create incredible digital learning. Why wouldn’t you get your user interface (UI) inspiration from leading social media channels? Or the plot of your eLearning module from a film? The possibilities are endless if you think outside the box.

However, it doesn’t take much to find a blog or an article about learners’ decreasing attention spans. But have no fear – science has an answer. Research 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.


2. The role of emotion in learning

The science of learning has taught us that there are four key ‘knowledge’ emotions:

  1. Surprise
  2. Interest
  3. Confusion
  4. Awe

The emotions are an important group and facilitate learning, exploring, and reflecting. Each of these emotions help cement new knowledge into long-term memory, due to their level of novelty, complexity, and unfamiliarity. Coupling these features with the learner’s ability to understand, and you’ll find some really creative ways to teach your learners. Check out Cursim’s blog on the topic, here.


3. The science of memory

It is our aim to deliver new information to learners, in an easy-to-digest way, which promotes recall. However, so many L&D professionals forget about the ‘aiding recall’ part of the equation.

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 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. The first time you sat behind a steering wheel, you’d have likely been confused, nervous and overwhelmed. When do I indicate? When should I look in my mirrors? It was all new – and scary. But now, when you jump in your car to pop 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.


So, there you have the three key areas of the science of learning – which I hope will help aid your future eLearning design projects.