When you learned anything new, have you ever felt like your brain was melting?
That’s referred to as cognitive load.
Cognitive load affects a person’s capacity to pick up and remember new skills. For this reason, it’s critical to create upskilling programs that minimize needless cognitive load.
The Appic Softwares Learning Solutions Architect Lauren Ammons offers instructional design techniques to help you get learning and development initiatives off the ground and lessen the cognitive burden of upskilling.
Understanding how cognitive load affects learning
What exactly is cognitive load, then? Lauren describes it as the brain’s makeshift storage facility. The amount of mental work needed to digest and interpret information is referred to as cognitive load, according to her.
“We have a certain amount of working memory when we learn anything new. Cognitive overload results from going over that limit, which makes it more difficult for us to learn efficiently.
A high cognitive load makes learning significantly more difficult. However, learning new skills is simpler when there is less cognitive strain.
Cognitive load for adults
Particularly for adults, cognitive load is crucial to learning and development. When learning, adults draw on their prior experiences and knowledge. “This past information may be useful, “said Lauren. However, if fresh knowledge is incompatible with preexisting mental models, it may also result in a cognitive load.
Lauren proposes that learning should be tailored to reinforce prior knowledge as a result. “Seek methods to give new information context and meaning,” advises the speaker.
The effects of cognitive overload
When a person’s brain is overloaded with knowledge, cognitive overload sets in. One’s cognitive ability can be taxed by multitasking, focusing on complex activities, and consuming an excessive amount of information from many sources.
The learning capacity of your tech workforce is impacted by cognitive overload. But it may also affect how well they function on a daily basis at work. Among the typical consequences of cognitive overload are:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased productivity
Flow state: Your tech teams’ aim for instructional design
When one is totally absorbed and concentrated on a particular task, they are said to be in a state of flow. Another term for it is “being in the zone.” Learners are more likely to assimilate and retain new information and abilities when they are in a state of flow.
By putting techniques in place to lessen cognitive load, your tech team can learn in a state of flow.
How to create an upskilling program that lowers cognitive strain for tech teams using instructional design?
How can you put upskilling initiatives and training for your tech personnel into action if you are aware of how cognitive load impacts learning?
Lauren offers five suggestions to reduce the cognitive load of your upskilling program and promote flow state, regardless of whether your company uses live tech training, online learning environments, or a hybrid learning environment.
Avoid unnecessary jargon
Tech is full of acronyms, jargon, and technical terms. Examples include DevOps, repos, Agile, IPaaS, and C#. Technologists can grasp these simple examples, but you can’t expect them to know every phrase while they’re learning a new program, language, or expertise.
Technologists’ cognitive load will rise if they are continuously exposed to terms and phrases they don’t understand. Although technologists will eventually need to grasp the correct terminology, learning in plain English rather than jargon will save them unnecessary mental strain.
Provide clear instructions to speed up learning
Of technologists, 25% are unsure of which resources to use and 30% are unsure of where to concentrate their skill development efforts. The learning process itself may suffer from this lack of focus. In summary, unambiguous instructions minimize misunderstandings and lessen mental strain.
Lauren says, “Clear instructions act like a mental shortcut.” This enables students to concentrate their mental energy on comprehending and using novel technological ideas. Trainers maximize learning velocity and reduce cognitive stress by giving clear, simple-to-follow instructions.
Leverage visual aids
Cognitive load can be decreased by using visual aids to help comprehend abstract technological concepts and process complicated ideas. According to Lauren, “our brains process visual information more efficiently than text alone.”A picture is more valuable than a thousand code lines!
Videos, charts, and diagrams are common visual aids, but they’re not the only ones. Lauren advises using gestures and hands-on demonstrations into your upskilling initiatives.She clarifies, “These enhance memory retention and activate multiple senses.”
Use chunking and microlearning
Chunking is the process of dividing material into digestible, significant portions. Lauren says, “Our working memory can only hold a small number of items at a time.” “We maximize working memory efficiency and minimize cognitive load by chunking information into meaningful groups.”
Information is easier to process and remember in bite-sized chunks. “Rather than overloading students with a deluge of disjointed knowledge, we break it down into sensible portions,” Lauren adds.
In the event that engineers must acquire proficiency in a novel programming language, she recommends initiating with certain principles or syntactic patterns. Your tech staff can build upon the fundamentals and keep learning more after they have a firm understanding of these ideas.
Create interactive learning experiences
59% of technicians prefer hands-on labs and sandboxes to help them apply new skills on the workplace, according to our 2023 State of Upskilling survey. While videos and online courses are valuable resources, interactive learning offers more interesting alternatives.
Group projects, coding competitions, brainstorming sessions, and practical labs can all help learners become more proficient and enjoy learning. According to Lauren, “Learners construct knowledge by integrating new information with their preexisting mental frameworks.” “These activities reduce cognitive load and foster deep understanding by activating learners’ prior knowledge.”
Prioritize learning by creating time for it
If your technologists lack the time to learn, these tips will not help them. Collaborate with technical leaders frequently to incorporate learning opportunities into their team’s agenda.
If you encounter resistance, describe how the technical leader’s team will gain from the learning process. Someone can be concerned, for instance, that learning will slow down their team’s progress. Recognize that while technicians will not be as productive in the short term, the skills they acquire will enable them to lower risks and delays in forthcoming projects, which will speed up time to market.