Instructional Design

9 Psychological Facts That Will Make Your Online Courses Better

online coursesYou have agonized over creating your online courses: what information to provide, activities for students, quizzes, discussions and more. Unfortunately, it feels like it could be better somehow. You don’t want your learners dreading their tasks and assignments, struggling just to grasp the most basic concepts.

The human brain is a vast sea of complex methods and processes, however, understanding the most basic fundamentals of how we process and retain information can help make your online courses 100 times better than you ever imagined.

There is no reason why you should have to become a psychology major just to create astounding online courses – here are 9 psychological facts that will make your online courses better:

1. People Will Only Do As Much As They Have To

The truth is that unless something is important to someone personally, they are only going to do what they have to in order to get a job done. The human brain is designed in such a way that it can only focus on and absorb small amounts of information at a time.

In the confusion of cognitive overload, learners’ minds seem to shut down their ability to continually process the information flow and they lose their creative and productive drive.

Solution: Design your online course in such a way that you are providing them with smaller, more process-able, chunks of information. Set the course material of your online courses up in such a way that learners’ can take the smaller amounts of information and accomplish each task at their own pace.

2. Humans Learn Through Spaced Practice & Retention

Although this aspect of learning is often left behind in the fast-paced world of work and technology, it is nearly impossible to learn something and remember it from that day on. We may learn something and remember it long enough to pass a test, after that time has passed, the information is quickly forgotten. That is, unless we are practicing it periodically for some time after it has been learned.

Solution: When you are designing your online courses with smaller sections of learnable information, add a review of the previous sections to each one. This spaced practice will ensure that learners still remember what they were taught in the first sections when they are reaching the final ones.

3. Everyone Has A Different Learning Style

Early on in life we learn that we are just better at learning some subjects and worse at others. For example, you may have known more than one or two people who were great at math and science, but completely flopped on English or art.

This is because everyone has their own learning style. Many people are visual learners, they learn by seeing or watching something being explained or done. While others are more inclined towards semantic learning, they learn by reading and writing about a subject. Still yet, others may learn hands-on, by doing for themselves.

Solution: Ensure a variety of content within your online courses. Provide plenty of textual information, but also include a good amount of audio and visual aids, as well as any hand-on activities that can be applied.

4. Our Minds Organize Information According To How It Is Learned

Our minds simply cannot process when they are being overloaded with information. However, it is also important to know that the order in which they are learned is equally as important. The order in which something is learned determines how the information will be stored, retained, and later recalled. A good example of this is how we were taught to solve math equations, one step at a time. If we didn’t do the steps in proper order then we would never reach the right answer.

Solution: When you are designing your online courses, make sure that there is a hierarchy of organization.

5. The Human Mind Craves Information

Everyone is curious, which causes us to crave information. When something interests us, even slightly, we want to know more. This drive of curiosity to know more is what compels us to explore the world around us. This is a very important factor when it comes to motivating learners to learn more.

Solution: Stimulate your learners’ curiosity and provide them with more information when asked. You can also provide helpful feedback at all times.

6. People Need Social Reinforcement

Whether we realize it or not, people tend to learn better when they are together. If someone is uncertain about what to do, they will look to their peers for guidance. Allowing learners to effectively give and receive feedback with their peers, is a motivating factor for learning.

Solution: When designing your online course, provide places where learners can be social, such as a blog or forum.

7. People Need Relevancy 

In order for information to be stored permanently, it should be related to day-to-day living. Providing information in such a way that makes it relevant to people’s lives will help ensure that it is retained for the long-term, instead of just long enough to pass the test. This is why math concepts are often reinforced with real life examples.

Solution: Find ways to reinforce your educational materials with examples and strategies which make it relevant to people’s everyday lives.

8. The Mind Associates Colors With Emotions & Meaning

The human mind associates different colors with different meanings and emotions. For example, red can mean that something is important or has a negative association. Advertisers often use the power of color psychology to have an impact of their sales rates through the use of well-thought-out ads.

Solution: Integrate the psychology of color to positively enhance your online course by using it to direct attention, improve readability, and entice emotions conductive to improving your materials.

9. The Brain Works Better At Different Times Of The Day

Every learners’ mind works better at different times during the day. For some, it might work best first thing in the morning. While others’ minds might work best after a nap, during the night, or at some other point.

Solution: When creating your online courses, remember that having a more flexible module schedule can allow learners to work during the part of the day when their mind is at its best performance, meaning that they will learn more effectively and retain more information.

 

Understanding some of the psychological principles of learning can help everyone, even when you are not a psychology major, to create an engaging and effective online course which will have your learners leaving empowered by the new knowledge that you have provided.