The Latest Brain Science Research and its Impact on eLearning

We are at the forefront of brain science research. Today, we know more about the brain than ever before. As seen in our latest webinar with CLO Magazine: “Leveraging The Latest in Brain Science to Deliver The Next Generation of eLearning,” Dr. Alice Kim of the Rotman Research Institute of Baycrest and Axonify’s CEO Carol Leaman explore the connection between this cutting edge cognitive research and its ties and applications to the next generation of eLearning.

Our cognitive status and progress is affected by our age and lifestyle choices. Physical fitness, sleep habits and social interactions all have been shown to benefit our cognitive function. The age-old saying about “losing your marbles” enforces the traditionally accepted notion that as we age our cognitive function dramatically decreases. However new discoveries show that some key aspects of cognition are resistant to cognitive aging, that despite the saying we can in fact keep our marbles. Our habits and practices alone can create positive or negative neuroplasticity in our brains.

Positive neuroplasticity promotes cognitive functions. The brain is not static and we have the power to promote positive changes in our cognitive status. This type of neuroplasticity is reflected not only by an increase in connection between neurons, but the formation of stronger ones. There are countless habits and activities we can engage in to promote this type of neuroplasticity.

Another important cognitive function is our memory. We rely on our memory for a variety of tasks whether it is communicating with others or the ability to perform day-to-day tasks; memory plays a key role in our cognitive function. It is a little known fact that there are two types of memory, declarative and non-declarative. The distinct difference between the two comes down to intentional retrieval of information versus procedural memory. As Dr. Kim notes, the memory of riding a bicycle is radically different than giving someone instructions of how to ride a bicycle.

Dr. Kim also explains the cognitive strategies we can easily employ in improving our memory and cognition including repeated retrieval, spacing and deep encoding. Repeated retrieval suggests that asking a question and retrieving the information to provide an answer is more effective than repeated studying when it comes to long-term memory retention.

Repeated retrieval leads to better learning

The “drip” approach or what researchers call the spacing effect concludes that long-term retention is improved as the spacing between repetitions increases. Spacing is the exact opposite of something we’ve all done at some point: cramming. Although cramming might have gotten us through an important test, the research clearly shows that cramming only has a positive impact on short-term memory retention. Similarly the spacing effect has a positive impact on long-term memory retention.

Spaced practice leads to better learning

Another well known cognitive strategy is the practice of deep encoding. This strategy encourages us to deeply and meaningfully process information; this in turn means we are far more likely to remember it in the long term. In one study, participants were given a word to encode. The graph below illustrates the dramatic increases as the encoding gets deeper. Linking and integrating new information to existing memories is an easy way to engage in this strategy.

deep encoding leads to better learning

So what can we do with these groundbreaking findings to improve corporate learning? It’s simple, retrieve retrieve retrieve, space out the practice and of course deliver learning that is engaging, better processed and ultimately, better retained. Watch the complete webinar on-demand.

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