Online Course Design for Active Learning within the UDL Framework

A wordcloud in the shape of a Rubik's cube with these main words from the blog on active learning: learning, students, course, provide, can, and UDL.

This is a WordCloud based on my blog post on active learning.

Active Learning Defined

Active learning engages students directly in the learning process through instructional activities with differing degrees of interaction that’s student-centered, whereas passive learning occurs indirectly and without interaction. The latter is often, but not always, teacher-centered. Student-centered learning emphasizes learner control and manipulation of information, so students can actively use what’s learned. Students respond well when they have a participatory voice in their learning.

Active learning is preferred because it triggers cognitive functioning. Examples of active learning include the following:

  • Studio model with a teacher or student observations and feedback (e.g., writer’s workshop, art production, portfolios);
  • Problem-based learning;
  • Group work (e.g., business proposals, case studies, mixed media presentations);
  • Debates;
  • Gaming and simulations;
  • Metacognitive strategies to monitor self-learning;
  • Transference of knowledge to new problems and situations; and
  • Assessments that require analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

See the University of Michigan’s instructor worksheet to reflect on active learning opportunities you already use or would like to try.

UDL Defined

Universal Design refers to the consideration of the needs of persons with disabilities in regard to physical spaces, objects, and tasks. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) recognizes those needs for course design. Its main premise is equal access to education and extends this to all types of learners. Active learning aligns with the UDL framework when lessons provide multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement (CAST, 2018). See my blog post on UDL to learn more and test your knowledge.

What does active learning look like online?

Active learning can take on different formats, levels of engagement, and levels of complexity in setup. It can be for individual or group work. Online educators use the community of inquiry (COI) framework to ensure students are engaged with the content, each other, and the instructor to maximize learning. Social presence (SP), cognitive presence (CP), and teaching presence (TP) are the essential elements to the communication loop for an online COI (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). This means that online learners are involved in cognitively challenging activities for CP (i.e., analysis, synthesis, evaluation), are able to interact with classmates for SP (e.g., discussions and projects), and that the teacher or student moderator is present in some way through communication, guidance, and feedback for TP. This aligns with the UDL goals to foster collaboration and community and to provide options for comprehension, communication, and executive functions (CAST, 2018).

Collaborative computer-mediated instructional strategies require interactive technologies such as videoconferencing tools for office hours and feedback, forum tools for asynchronous discussions, shared drive for collaborative documents, and portfolio or other platforms (e.g., blog, Google Sites, wiki) to share student work. These digital activities require clear guidelines for interacting with each other, the content, the teacher, and the tools in order to be effective (e.g., group roles, peer review criteria, schedule, samples, tool guides). Designing these opportunities for all students to access, build, and internalize information requires forethought.

Set the Stage for Active Learning

Tell your students what you expect of them in the online course. A best practice is to provide an introductory course overview with your syllabus, schedule, and protocol for interactions (Quality Matters, 2018). For some examples, see my blog on Student and Teacher Expectations for Online Courses. Share course requirements for the online environment and address learning values such as the growth mindset. This aligns with the UDL’s Checkpoint 9.1: “Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation” (Cast, 2018).

Dweck (2009) described those who underestimate their ability to learn as possibly having a fixed mindset, while those who believe that they can learn by establishing attainable goals and applying effort to learn as having a growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset want to be corrected; their ego isn’t tied to learning. Conversely, those with a fixed mindset don’t pay attention to corrective feedback. They believe that learning shouldn’t take any effort because it’s tied to their intelligence; their ego influences how they learn. Students with a fixed mindset may be resistant to active learning. See my blog post to Focus on the Process to Support the Growth Mindset of Students. This process aligns with mastery-oriented feedback promoted by the UDL to sustain effort and persistence (CAST, 2018).

Second, make sure students know how to use the learning management system (LMS) prior to high-stakes assignments to reduce anxiety and to reduce the cognitive load for the overall task. Here are some useful tasks to help familiarize students with the LMS:

  • Student acknowledgment form submission to try out the assignment tool (i.e., course expectations),
  • ‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion,
  • Syllabus quiz to ensure students have read it (also practice test proctoring software if utilized in course), and
  • Poll practical experience on the course topic to better understand students’ prior knowledge on the subject and drive instruction to meet students’ needs.

This aligns with UDL’s Checkpoint 7.3 to provide a welcoming course climate and predictability of tasks (CAST, 2018).

Content Delivery

The lecture, demonstration, or direct instruction of a skill is a passive learning event unless students are provided ways to interact with the content. Consider using EdPuzzle, PlayPosit, or Camtasia Studio to engage learners while watching a video lecture or demonstration with questions to answer before preceding to the next segment. The former two premium tools provide instructors with learner analytics such as level of engagement, successful attempts, and grades.

Instructional strategies. Strategy selection depends on various affordances and constraints such as time and resources. For example, an activity-centered lesson is based on an interactive task and requires collaborative tools and student groupings. Content-centered lessons are passive tasks where the student generally only interacts with the content, the exception being discussions of content. Experience-centered activities require a hands-on approach to developing something or serving/working with others. The learner-centered activity provides the learner with more autonomy over their pursuit of knowledge and includes metacognitive actions for self-regulation of learning; the affordances and constraints for this type of activity are highly dependent on the task.

Overall, the best practice is to utilize a variety of instructional strategies to address learner preferences through multiple means of engagement and expression for the UDL. Here’s a list of online instructional strategies for each type.

Activity-Centered
Content-Centered
Experience-Centered
Learner-Centered
Analysis of case studies

Critically review an article

HyperInquiry* team project

Academic controversy** assignment

Develop a book trailer on topic

WebQuest

 

Pretest/Posttest

Write a literature review

Complete modules on topic in computer-adapted program

Write essay

Make a presentation

Discuss content with peers and instructor

 

Develop questionnaires

Develop a personal model of topic

Participate in a simulation

Develop a workshop

Develop a wiki on topic

Produce a podcast on topic

Develop a how-to guide on a procedure

Write a blog post on topic

Serve others as a mentor, tutor, or volunteer on topic

Curate an art exhibit

Peer-review of papers or projects

Students create m/c questions for review

Design a project

Evaluate a program

Write an autobiography of your interaction with topic

Complete self-evaluation

Develop a personal learning network

Capture reflections in journal, audio, or video

Curate digital books and articles on topic for lifelong learning

Notes. *HyperInquiry is like a Webquest but at a deeper level of inquiry (Dempsey & Litchfield, 2001). **Academic controversy is a debate where students eventually take both sides of an argument.

Learning strategies. Learning strategies are ways students can engage with the course readings and other content to monitor their learning. Cognitive learning strategies include concept mapping, mnemonics, overlearning, metaphors, and similes. Embed these learning strategies into your instructional activities to build students’ brain schema on the topic and its relation to other subjects for long-term memory. Share this list of cognitive strategies with students. The difference between cognitive and metacognitive being concreteness versus meta-awareness respectively. Most students are likely familiar with structurally cognitive ones such as concept maps but may not be familiar with the others. Share this student learning organizer of metacognitive strategies. Tying learner strategies to your instruction will make it more inclusive.

Discussions

Discussions can have well thought out open-ended questions provided by the instructor, student-generated questions, or no questions at all. For example, one instructor has had great success without providing questions in his online discussions. Instead, he tells students the purpose of discussions and that they’ll find suggestions for these by listening to his podcast or video lecture for that unit. To increase engagement in larger online courses, the University of California recommends short targeted discussions, role assignments, and subdivision of course material to get the students talking and keep them on task.

Roles. Provide structure and student agency to discussions by assigning roles (e.g., starter, responder, wrapper) and rotating those roles during the course. Additionally, this will prevent the same students from posting first and everyone else waiting to reply. Student-moderated discussions provide SP to the online COI. See blog post on how to plan for an online COI.

Media. Use the audio or video recording features to share responses besides the text-based option to provide novelty and multiple means of representation. Ask students to provide a visual created by the student that illustrates their learning along with their reflection. See Google Drawing illustrating a students’ understanding of reading regarding semiotic domains. This provides both TP and SP for the online COI. The exchange of media will close the psychological distance between you and your students.

Monitor. For equity, a best practice is to create a matrix of teacher-student interactions to track your response efforts over the course of the semester. Monitoring your discussion posts will curtail various biases and ensure consistency. Use a spreadsheet to do this and include personal information shared in the ‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion to provide a more personalized context for meaningful interactions with each student.

Assignments

Highly effective tasks are those which are situated within the actual task (authentic or simulated) or end goal for your course for near transfer of information to long-term memory. This is in contrast to far transfer tasks that are related but not exact. Situated learning occurs through different modes of co-participation based on situational factors (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Learning in one situational context may not transfer to another unless it closely mirrors it and the learner is properly prepared; therefore, authenticity is crucial to the learning situation (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989).

Groupwork. Student-led projects provide student agency in the design of their own learning. Provide the parameters, team roles (e.g., team leader/organizer, researcher, writer, & presenter), and peer evaluation forms to ensure everyone participates fully. Include expectations for group grade such as everyone provides proofreading of assignment prior to submission. Encourage student groups to set up their own ground rules for group meetings and task sharing. Monitor group work by asking to be added to the document workspace such as a shared Google folder.

Presentations. As for hybrid courses, maximize the face-to-face meeting by asking students to present their work to each other during seminar sessions in their level one courses. This is referred to as flipped learning when you use class time for student activities instead of teacher-centered activities. For fully online courses, students can share their media presentations (e.g., narrated PowerPoints saved as MP4 files, podcasts, video projects) with other students in a media hosting site that allows students and teachers to provide feedback, as well as tags, titles, and captions.

Assessments

How can students demonstrate mastery besides multiple-choice tests? These are still useful for testing recall. However, to engage the learner in higher-order thinking skills, we should provide alternative assessments such as project-based learning, essays, portfolios, performance, products, and presentations. These don’t need to be end-of-term projects. Formative assessments can be formal or informal (practice tests, digital exit tickets, polls), which serve as comprehension checks and subsequent student feedback during the course. This is in contrast to summative assessments that test your cumulative knowledge on a topic at the end of the term. Formative assessments promote fairness by gathering evidence of students’ understanding throughout the course, which can be used to better inform/modify your instructional practices to meet students’ needs.

Testing is a learning event. Consider setting tests for multiple attempts to help students achieve mastery. This triggers new learning and/or review of content, as students revisit content for answers. Tolerance for error in course assignments also makes it more inclusionary. To prepare for a test, ask students to use the free tool PeerWise to create questions on the topic of study for each other to answer. Some instructors ask their students to submit questions for actual tests. In this scenario, students develop questions from the content according to its structure and importance.

Feedback & Guidance

Learning requires differing feedback loops offered at intervals throughout the course, hopefully, with just-in-time guidance. Feedback can come from intelligent tutors through computer adaptive programs, instructors, teaching assistants, peers, and subject matter experts from the professional field. Formats for feedback loops vary from discussions, recommended edits on a paper, rubrics, and assessments.

Rubrics. Rubrics establish the criteria and scale for various tasks such as discussions and assignments and make the expectations explicit. Rubrics provide consistency and speed with grading. Some electronic rubric features allow you to provide feedback at the criterion level and for overall performance. Additionally, you can tag your departmental student learning outcomes to these rubrics to help students understand why the task is important.

Scaffolded instructional feedback. Scaffolding instruction provides content in meaningful and manageable chunks of information. This entails providing visuals for structure, context, direction, and just-in-time definitions. For example, segment a lecture at viable points and ask reflective questions. For writing, break large tasks such as research papers into point-based phases of the writing process (e.g., outline, literature review with five citations, rough draft, final paper). Consider the UDL and design for tolerance for error by providing space to practice (e.g., mock interviews/comps/presentations, tutorials, simulations).

Peer feedback. It’s critical to provide guidelines and criteria for peer feedback tasks. This involves establishing roles, a clear project description, rubric, and instructions for tools used. For writing, assign a peer review of draft papers utilizing MS Word tracked changes or Google Docs suggested edits. Instructors can request access to the documents for review.

Conclusion

In summary, for active learning, students need the following:

  • Preparation for learning events,
  • Situated learning environments for near transfer,
  • Planned multimodal interactions that are cognitively challenging,
  • Cognitive strategies,
  • Feedback loops, and
  • Metacognitive strategies to monitor their learning.

Review your understanding of active learning with this interactive reader developed by the UCLA Librarian, Douglas Worsham (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

References

Brown, J., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–42.

CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

Dempsey, J. V., & Litchfield, B. C. (2001). Surfing below the surface of the Web: HyperInquiry. In B. H. Kahn (Ed.), Web-Based Training (pp. 229-234).  Englewood Cliffs, NY: Educational Technology Publications.

Dweck, C. (2009). Developing Growth Mindsets: How Praise Can Harm, and How To Use it Well. [Presentation]. Paper presented at the Scottish Learning Festival, Glasgow. Retrieved from http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/video/c/video_tcm4565678.asp

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3), 87-105.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Quality Matters™ Higher Education Rubric, sixth edition. (2018). Maryland Online, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.qualitymatters.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/StandardsfromtheQMHigherEducationRubric.pdf


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Dear First Generation College Student,

Dr. Rogers shows participants the various learning activities provided in StudyMate program

Dear First Generation College Student,

Decades ago, I was you. Specifically, I was first-generation low-income (#FLI). Now, I have a doctorate and teach and train others. As an undergraduate, this was not my goal, as I simply pursued a single college degree and a good job. Math, science, and writing were difficult topics for me due to poor reading skills and lack of academic vocabulary. Why? Several variables lead to poor reading and vocabulary, some of which may apply to you. These insights are based on my past experience as an FLI college student and work experience as a developmental reading instruction specialist:

  • Lack of prior practice reading (e.g., no library visits or books around the house due to lack of funds, free time, or low priority/value);
  • Lack of K-12 homework help (e.g., no available time with a parent, parent unable to tackle homework or no funds for tutors);
  • No direct instruction of reading skills and strategies in secondary school (i.e., generally secondary schools focus solely on writing skills in English class); and
  • Peer or family pressure for the practical status quo.

Lacking academic vocabulary is a snowball effect because, with each scholastic year, more vocabulary is taught or otherwise required of you. Don’t fret, with a lot of effort and a growth mindset, you can decrease the gap between you and your high-achieving peers. Tackle your reading assignments early by previewing (skimming and scanning) and looking up unknown words. Keep a log of useful words to reuse in your writing assignments. Use software applications such as electronic flashcards and Grammarly.

Here are some reading comprehension strategies & study aids:

  • Use this online form to review, summarize, study, and think about your reading assignment: Student Guides & Strategies
  • SQ4R: Interact with the text by following the SQ4R strategies: survey, question, read, respond, record, and review. This originated from Robinson’s (1970) SQ3R study method of survey, question, read, recite, and review.
  • Cornell Note-Taking was developed by Walter Paulk at Cornell University in the 1940s and is still used today. Download Cornell’s PDF to use.
  • Learn how to read a scientific article with these Study Guides & Strategies.

This presentation provides some metacognitive strategies to improve your reading skills for college: (Cook, 1989)

For more information on metacognitive strategies, and to access a student learning organizer, visit my college’s LibGuide on Learning Strategies.

References

Cook, D. M. (1989). Meta-cognitive behaviours of good and poor readers: Strategic learning in the content areas. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  

Robinson, F. P. (1970). Effective Study (4th Edition). New York, NY: Harper & Row.


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Where Learning Happens

Young boy riding a wave
My Godchild Surfing (Photo source: Ed Compo)

During the flow of a task, at the edge of our zone of proximal development (ZPD), via our selective attention, rehearsal, and metacognition is where learning happens.  I acknowledge that this description short shrifts other important cognitive and behavioral learning processes; nevertheless, these are what I recognize as most important in creating an optimal learning experience. To be certain, many other constructs come into play such as ability, attitude, emotion, motivation, and personality.

Csikszentmihalyi’s (1990) flow theory describes the conditions for flow.  It occurs when there are rules, goals, feedback, and potential for participant control. His flow theory is not specific to learning, but rather generic to all of life’s activities. He described flow as an optimal experience; I translate that to “being in the zone”, which comes to us from popular culture (not the ZPD). In reading his work, I saw similarities to learning in his descriptions of flow in how it motivates one to higher levels of performance. For example, for an activity to engender enjoyment, it should provide manageable tasks, deep concentration, clear goals, immediate feedback, effortless involvement, learner autonomy, metamorphosis of self, and suspension of time. As an instructional designer, I want to utilize these aspects of flow to create optimal learning experiences.

Vygotsky’s (1978) proposed that learning takes place at the edge of one’s understanding with the help of others or a support system. This is known as the ZPD. This means that learning will not take place if the activity is too easy or too difficult. Csikszentmihalyi also described flow occurring for activities within a channel with just the right type of challenge to match a person’s skills. This channel exists somewhere between anxiety and boredom. Educators understand the need for differentiated instruction to meet each individual learner’s needs, but the reality of trying to make this happen in a classroom of diverse learners is almost impossible to do all of the time. Grouping according to ability is a solution but can cause equity issues if overdone. Computer-adaptive software programs, peer mentoring, cross-age tutoring, well-designed educational games, and pull-out programs for gifted or remediation are some solutions to providing the ZPD for our learners.

Self-regulation processes include rehearsal, selection of important information, and metacognitive strategies. Self-regulation aids working memory by stretching the time the information is held in storage, as well as enhancing transfer to and retrieval from long-term memory. A helpful example of self-regulation would be self-directed speech. Students might not think this is helpful, so an educator should model this behavior or otherwise teach it explicitly. Other useful learning strategies specific to self-regulation are mnemonics, reciprocal teaching, and reflection (written, verbal, or artistic formats).

Where do you think learning occurs? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Sandra Rogers

References

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cognitive Benefits of ePortfolios

What Educators Need to Know about Working Memory

Embed from Getty Images

 

Working memory is a process in the brain where meaning is constructed from information received and potential self-regulation of memory occurs. It also serves as a temporary storage device. Working memory is limited to the amount of information it can hold and the duration it can remember. According to Miller (1956), humans are capable of remembering only seven plus-or-minus two pieces of information in our memory at any given time without the help of learning strategies. If self-regulation of the information is not engaged, working memory is limited to three seconds duration in the auditory registers (Ward, 2010). Ward notes that young children’s ability to remember information is more stringent than that of adults. This age difference and the other limitations should be considered when designing and/or delivering instruction. For example, instruction of content should also include strategies to help students learn (e.g., mnemonics).

Baddeley and Hitch (1974; Baddeley, 1986) developed a model for working memory to explain the internal processing of information. Its main components are sensory register, working memory, and long-term memory. The subcomponents are an executive control system, an articulatory loop, and a visual-spatial sketchpad. The executive control system selects information, plans, and then transfers information to long-term memory. The articulatory loop consists of the auditory and articulatory processes such as rehearsal. The visual-spatial sketchpad consists of the visual and spatial processes, which can also include rehearsal. An important caveat for educators is that some learners don’t intrinsically know to select only the important information for long-term storage.  Therefore, it would be helpful for educators to preview documents and highlight key points prior to assigning the reading.

Numerous factors and self-regulatory processes affect working memory. Self-regulation processes include rehearsal, selection of important information, and metacognitive strategies (e.g., making it meaningful, organizing, visualization, and elaboration). Self-regulation aids working memory by stretching the time the information is held in storage, as well as enhancing transfer to and retrieval from long-term memory. A helpful example of self-regulation would be self-directed speech. Students might not think this is helpful, so an educator should model this behavior or otherwise teach it explicitly. The National Research Council (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 1999) defines metacognition as taking “the form of an internal conversation.”

Here are some factors that hinder working memory:

  1. construction of memory requires attribution and inference and therefore can cause distortions as to the correct source,
  2. articulatory suppression can cause forgetting of non-articulated information,
  3. physical impairments can cause faulty encoding of information,
  4. multitasking influences the depth of learning,
  5. merely trying to remember something can conflict with other memories (Ward); and
  6. cognitive overload can occur when information is presented with distracting enhancements like background music or elaborative fonts.

There are different types of memories: declarative (episodic and semantic) and non-declarative memory (implicit) (Ward). Episodic memory refers to a person’s personal events, whereas semantic memory refers to conceptual knowledge. Ward stated that episodic memory is stronger than semantic memory; therefore, it’s imperative to teach students metacognitive strategies for encoding conceptual knowledge into long-term memory. These strategies should be embedded in the curriculum after they’re presented through direct instruction.

Note: For more information on the information processing system as it relates to instructional design see my blog on The Basics.

References

Baddeley, A. D. (1986). Working memory: Theory and practice. London, England: Oxford University Press.

Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 8, pp. 47-90). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Bransford, J. D., Brown A. L., & Cocking R. R. (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind,experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus-or-minus two: Some limits on ourcapacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 81-97

Ward, J. (2010). The student’s guide to cognitive neuroscience. New York, NY: Psychological Press.

Instructional Design for Human Learning: The Basics

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The information processing theory explains how humans perceive, internalize, and remember information. The Atkinson and Shriffin’s (1968) information processing model included three systems: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. This was a linear process, which has since been replaced with the nonlinear working memory model (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974) and other connectionist processes that align with current cognitive neuroscience views of human learning. Instructional designers should focus on the following concepts of information processing to improve learning and retention: the importance of gaining students’ attention, the limitation to working memory, and how to reduce cognitive load.

First, paying attention to instruction is paramount to learning. Bruning, Schraw, and Norby (2011, p.15) define attention as “the mental energy used to perceive, think, and understand.” A person’s attention is limited, selective, but can be self-regulated. There are several distracters which compete for a person’s attention such as noise outside the classroom, unmet physiological needs (e.g., hunger), and psychological aspects (e.g., motivational factors). Therefore, students need to selectively focus on the key elements of the information to be learned. It’s important to explicitly tell students about the importance of attention and teach them how to focus in order for them to be successful. Bruning et al. (p. 35), refer to this as “managing their resources.” They also encourage us to help students transfer these strategies to other content, as this may not occur to them without prompting. As instructional designers, we’re trained to use Gagne’s (1985) nine events of instruction, the first of which is to gain the learner’s attention. Some of the various instructional strategies to achieve this goal are to manipulate the motion, size, intensity, novelty, and/or incongruity of the information.

Second, consider the limitations to working memory and embed metacognitive strategies to help students learn the content. According to Miller (1956), humans are capable of remembering only seven plus-or-minus two pieces of information in our memory at any given time without the help of learning strategies. Therefore, it’s imperative for educators and/or the instruction to provide students with memory strategies to expand this capability or otherwise limit the amount of information provided at any given time. A sampling of learning strategies include chunking, imagery, mnemonics, and rehearsal. Instructional designer should identify specific learning strategies to help students stretch their working memory according to the content, learning environment, and age-appropriateness.

Lastly, due to the competition on a learner’s attention and the limitations to working memory, consider reducing the cognitive load when designing lessons. The cognitive load theory is attributed to Baddeley’s working memory model. Theorists took his model a step further to explain the various intrinsic and extraneous demands on learning information (Sweller, Van Merriënboer, & Paas, 1998). Cognitive load refers to the amount of effort required to process information. For example, difficult information requires more effort due to its intrinsic structure. Extraneous demands refer to how the information is presented during instruction. Bruning et al., explained how intrinsic cognitive load is unalterable until you properly learn something, so that it becomes part of your schema. Instructional designers need to consider the complexity of the content, instructional environment, and the characteristics of the learners in order to avoid cognitive overload. Here are some tips:

  • slow the speed of delivery of complex concepts;
  • sequence tasks logically;
  • use a multimodal approach to delivery; and
  • segment tasks such as instructional videos in small chunks of time (e.g., five minutes).

References

Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 8, pp. 47-90). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Sweller, J., Van Merriënboer, J., & Paas, F. (1998). Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational Psychology Review10(3), 251–296. doi:10.1023/A:1022193728205