How to Design Smarter Learning Experiences

Recently, I listened to a Leading Learning podcast that featured Connie Malamed a learning experience design consultant. Being in the LMS industry and seeing all of the different ways our clients design and present their eLearning programs, I always find topics like these interesting to share.

Visual Design 

The podcast kicked off with talking about visual design — visuals can be used to express ideas and concepts with so many different ways to use visual to depict scenarios. eLearning Industry listed 6 reasons why visuals are the most powerful aspect of learning:

  • Helps store information longer
  • Make communication quicker and simpler
  • Aid better comprehension
  • Act as simulators for emotions
  • Drive motivation
  • Unsuitable visuals equal unhappy learners
  • Cognitive Load

Connie then went on to talk about 'cognitive load,' which she describes as the total amount of mental activity imposed on working memory in any one instant. She's concluded that working memory — the aspect of our minds that is conscious where we manipulate information — dominates everything we do in terms of learning. It is easy to overload our working memory, so we must be careful to not present a learner with a lot of interactive parts or too much information as they can become overloaded and drained.

One way to positively impact your cognitive load is through collaborative learning. Collaborative learning can increase working memory because it is being shared which can be great for novice learners.

Subject Matter Experts & Curating Content 
When designing learning programs, you'll probably be relying on subject matter experts for content. Connie talked about how people work best with subject matter experts to help that process and exchange of information while helping the outcome of whatever the SME is sharing.

  • Educate them about human cognitive load
  • Identify what 3-4 things do people really need to learn from this
  • What doesn't align can be taught another time or listed as a resource

In addition to working with subject matter experts, instructional designers can also curate content and make sure it all fits together, even though they were not the ones creating the content.

After curating content, ensure it all came from good sources


  • Curated courses can be for any level of learner
  • Always annotate and introduce a curated course so it makes sense and has some context

Once you've gotten your content nailed down, see if there are any gaps and fill those with other items such as new interviews with SMEs.

While you design and update your eLearning programs, are you taking the above items into account? Does your Learning Management System allow you to easily use visuals in your courses? Blue Sky's Path LMS and educational design services can help take your eLearning programs to the next level so that you're designing smarter learning experiences for your audience. 

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