Revving Up on Cognitive Load
In this post, I’d like to focus our attention on the theory side of things. In particular, a topic whose importance in the eLearning arena was really brought to my attention by a colleague of mine who's helped open my eyes to countless considerations that differ from my background as a traditional secondary educator.
However, one topic that my colleague has helped me to better understand is that of cognitive load.
There has been a great deal of research done on the topic, but in a nutshell, it refers to the amount of information the human brain can effectively process at one time.
And while I knew of it prior to meeting him, I lacked understanding its impact in the eLearning environment. Since Jim’s and my first discussion about cognitive load, I’ve challenged myself to dive into learning more about it, specifically, proactively targeting a learner’s cognitive load while developing eLearning content.
So let’s get started.
There are a variety of terms used with regards to cognitive load theory, but I keep finding myself visualizing it in my mind as a car’s tachometer.
Sure, it’s a metaphor, but conceptually, it aids in the understanding of how/when/why, and to what extent my mind changes gears.
Let’s look at some of my terms:
That leaves us with cognitive up-shift. However, don’t think of this simply as time spent actively learning, but rather, expanding the definition of up-shift to include other stimuli that vie for a learner’s attention, thus adding to his or her cognitive load.
Other stimuli, you ask? That’s right. Things like:
To name a few. Okay so that was more than a few. But really, our cognitive load takes on stimuli from three primary categories – at least while in a work setting, and taking an eLearning course:
That said, I’d like to focus on something that, while I’m certain others have thought about, I didn’t really find anything related to intentionally lessening the cognitive load, or, as I refer to it, down-shifting.
A cognitive down-shift allows learners time to ease up on the gas a bit so they don’t redline, but not too much, so they don’t stall either. Essentially, to keep your learner’s brain working effectively and efficiently through a series of up-shifts and down-shifts.
So the question remains…how does one accomplish this?
There are a variety of methods to incorporate down-shifts (humor, interactivity, etc.), but I really want to point out the importance for developers to be aware of this while developing, by using and relying on Captivate’s timeline. Let it become your development tachometer – how much are you asking learner’s to learn, speedometer – how fast are you asking them to learn it, and odometer – for how long are you asking them to learn.
Until next time, shoot for the stars and BE the YOND!
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