Updated: Dec 19, 2022
James Lawrenson has put it brilliantly, pointing out the integral cost of learning. According to the author, there is a cost to learning everything. Lawrence sees the cost of learning as a tax liability, which any learner needs to cover.
I love the comparison of learning cost to a tax because nothing is more sure than taxes. The complexity of tax law created a need for a workaround. Tax consultants and lawyers are already busy helping citizens with their legal matters.
Why would learning and development (L&D) professionals sit tight while we must offload the massive burden from the shoulder of aspiring learners?
The most common and complex challenge learners encounter is the ever-increasing cognitive load. Studying for a project, obtaining a new skill, or learning a new language requires significant mental effort.
The same is valid for upskilling or professional training at work. Talent is required to commit extra effort to complete mandatory learnings. At the same time, the pressure of fulfilling KPIs, achieving numerical targets, and delivering on projects is kicking in. Employees are expected to not only perform well but also to demonstrate constant professional growth. Such disbalance creates a cognitive burden on learners. As a result, learners breed reluctance to any activity that requires effort. Their cognitive load is boiling.
Cognitive load refers to the mental effort and resources required to process and retain information. When the cognitive load is high, it can be overwhelming and lead to frustration and poor learning outcomes.
How can you help reduce the cognitive load?
The mission of learning designers, content developers, and instructors is to take on the cognitive load on themselves to limit the mental effort of learners. L&D should emulate a cognitive filter by processing raw content into optimized learning and transferring it like an uninterrupted fiber line.
One way to reduce cognitive load is through the use of educational design. Educational design involves the systematic planning and development of learning materials and experiences by L&D professionals. Educational Design helps to ensure that learning is efficient, effective and engaging for the end users.
The four strategies outlined below can help reduce cognitive load and improve learning outcomes.
1. Chunking: Dividing information into smaller, more manageable units to reduce cognitive load. Chunking allows learners to focus on one piece of information at a time, rather than leaving them overwhelmed by a large amount of information at once.
2. Scaffolding: Providing learners with support and guidance as they progress through the learning material can help to reduce cognitive load. Scaffolding aims to provide clear learning objectives, use examples and models, and give feedback and guidance.
3. Multimedia: A combination of media, such as videos, images, and text, reduces cognitive load by granting learners several ways to process and retain information.
4. Practice and review: Providing opportunities to practice and review the material reinforces the information and helps learners to commit it to memory.
By incorporating these strategies into the design of learning materials and experiences, L&D professionals help to reduce cognitive load and improve learning outcomes for our learners.