We hold many opinions about multi-tasking. The truth is: our minds can’t handle as much as we think. The result of this over-ambitious mindset? It can affect both our productivity and emotions, causing this mindset to work against us and subject us to cognitive overload. Even in a virtual learning environment, it is important to be aware of this and structure training to be sure employees are not being overloaded. By understanding what causes cognitive overload and how to be aware of it, we can reduce cognitive overload in e-learning.
Throughout the day, our minds are constantly receiving and processing new pieces of information in our working memory. It’s important to remember, however, that our working memory can only handle so much. When overloaded, it can be difficult to retain information and recall it at a later point. Simply put, cognitive overload is when our minds receive more than they can process, affecting productivity.
We can understand what contributes to this load by breaking it down into the three types explained by the Cognitive Load Theory:
By finding a good balance of these types of loads, we meet the sweet spot for feeding the working memory what it can handle. This will allow for better memorization, knowledge retention, and, ultimately, better overall results.
While e-learning itself can already help create this balance in a working environment, there are a few steps that you can take to ensure that you don’t hit your learner’s working memory limit.
Before discussing the ways we can reduce cognitive overload in e-learning, it is important to first understand the signs of cognitive overload. This way, we can recognize when we might be subjecting learners to this load:
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To understand how to create a better learning environment, let’s look at some of the common mistakes employees and even trainers are making that cause cognitive overload:
Particularly in the workplace, cognitive overload is a common occurrence. Employees are constantly attaining and processing new information to be effective in their jobs. As a trainer, it’s important to think about reducing cognitive overload for a better user experience, and ultimately creating a better environment for learners. Not only this but the more you can reduce cognitive overload, the better the chances they retain and recall the information shared.
While e-learning is a good way to combat this, it is important to remember that even e-learning can sometimes fall victim to cognitive overload if not properly structured. By following the steps below, you can restructure your e-learning to ensure your learners are getting the most out of the material and that your e-learning does not cause cognitive overload: