How Classic Learning Principles Impact eLearning

Yes, eLearning, particularly in a traditional workplace like the manufacturing industry can seem like a novel idea, and while it does rely on utilizing new technology to teach concepts and train employees, much of eLearning is based on basic principles that have been explored for decades or more.

The key to successfully incorporating eLearning into your workplace or organization really relies on grasping timeless concepts of learning, and then using those to derive effective, efficient, and technologically-advanced eLearning materials.

Provide Context

Providing a context for why an employee is learning something is one of the most important components of making sure the learner is focused, and retains information being presented.


It’s imperative to help learners understand not just the how, but also the why of what’s being presented. For example, directly lay out the way in which particular training materials are going to impact their job and be utilized in the very near future. Employees are more likely to pay attention to and retain information they see as being useful right away, versus in the distant future.

Along the same lines, motivation is key to effective learning. The more motivated the learner, the more likely they are to comprehend and retain the information being given to them. Motivation is increased by giving the learner more autonomy over the experience, and also showing how the material is going to have a positive impact on their life, whether it’s personal or professional.

Create a Hierarchy

Evidence shows information is better understood and retained when it’s presented in a logical hierarchy.

Information needs to be presented in a way where primary materials come first, and then supporting and secondary materials follow. Similarly, when designing a course, concepts should logically build on one another, rather than skipping around or being ordered in a way that doesn’t seem logical.

Research shows presenting information in a hierarchy style can actually improve understanding by as much as 40 percent.

Active Versus Passive

The brain works best when it’s actively learning, as opposed to taking a passive role in the process. Work to include components of active learning in an eLearning course—examples include quizzes and polls, discussion forums, or opportunities to provide feedback.

Active learning tends to be more effective than passive learning because the employee is required to not only take in a set of information, but also decide immediately how to best apply the information they’ve been given, and this often includes the receipt of immediate feedback as well.

Active learning doesn’t have to account for an entire training or eLearning course, but it’s always a good idea to include at least some active learning modules within a course, based on classic learning theories.

The Transfer Effect

The Transfer Effect is a common learning theory that can be harnessed to build more effective eLearning courses.

Essentially what it means is that we learn better when we’re able to build connections between new material and what we’ve learned in the past.

The more easily a learner is able to build connections between old and new, the more likely they are to really learn the new material. When your employee is able to connect the dots between what they already know and what they’re being asked to learn, they’re more likely to not just remember the larger concepts, but also the details.

When creating coursework, keep this in mind and try to include materials that lead the student to access their past knowledge before progressing to new concepts.

These are just a few of the many ways neuroscience has a big impact on eLearning. It’s important when developing a course to think about not just the ways new technology is going to impact learning, but also how tried and true concepts of learning are going to play a role.

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