Does your eLearning support cognition or present content?

I recently read the article “What forty years of research says about the impact of technology on learning: a second-order meta-analysis and validation study” by RM Tamim, et al. It was published in The Review of Educational Research, vol 81, March 2011.

Firstly, the article contains some quotes that are excellent reminders of the importance of good instructional design in eLearning:

 In referring to the work of Richard E Clark (1983) – “media have no more effect on learning than a grocery truck has on the nutritional value of produce it brings to market. …… Features of instructional design and pedagogy … provide the real active ingredient that determines the value of educational experiences.”

“one of technology’s main strengths may lie in supporting students’ efforts to achieve rather than as a tool for delivering content.”

The analysis provided in the article indicated that computer technology that supports cognition has a greater impact than that which is used to present content. Well-designed eLearning that supports cognition will meet the standards we expect in good training – it will provide the learner with opportunities to think, reflect, make decisions and practice their new learning. Self-paced eLearning that requires the learner to simply read the screens, or passively watch a video, presents content and does not support cognition.

When you are looking at opportunities to integrate eLearning into your training program, consider the question – can I design it to support cognition or am I presenting content? If you want to simply present content to support learning in the classroom or on the job, are you using the most appropriate delivery method?


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