UOnline - How we learn

18:59 | Jan 2016

Read about the core learning principles behind InterActive's content creation philosophy.

InterActive’s approach to content production focuses on the creation of short and intensive learning segments, creating a robust and easily scalable solution to link a range of learning segments together for the purpose of creating a coherent syllabus structure for a variety of subjects.

Each content segment pertains to a key topic, which is addressed via a short video tutorial of up to three minutes in length, as well as with additional digital learning materials. The supplementary learning materials are designed to cater to different types of learners, whose receptiveness may vary depending upon their predisposition to auditory, visual, or kinaesthetic stimuli.

The structural advantage is that each item of content can serve as a stand-alone learning segment, but more importantly, can be combined with other segments in order to form a wider delivery structure composing sessions, units, modules, or even entire academic programmes.
This content creation methodology also provides great flexibility when creating custom content packages. They can be delivered in any combination to satisfy the learning outcomes specified from one syllabus to the next.

InterActive’s content production philosophy marries the latest developments in instructional design with current psychological theories of knowledge acquisition. The following parameters underpinning the core aspects of adult learning drive our content strategy.


Memory – short term, long term, and working memory

The processes of memory and learning are fundamentally related. Our memories are created and recalled via a complex cognitive process involving various neurological regions.

Memory can essentially be thought of as a three-stage process of encoding, storage, and retrieval. Incoming information is retained as short term memory, where it will be quickly forgotten if the process fails to progress beyond this point.

When we learn something new, this new data is initially stored in the short-term memory. Working memory, which operates much like RAM in computing, then encodes this information so that it can be transferred and retained in the long-term memory. However, if there is insufficient time or a lack of learner engagement, the short-term memory is overridden by new incoming information before the transfer to the long-term memory is completed. To counteract these limitations, InterActive has adopted progressive learning methodologies which foster high levels of memory retention.

The ‘chunking’ principle

Information overload is all too common in academia, and working memory only provides a small space in which information can be stored. This means that learners are only able to handle a limited amount of new data before experiencing cognitive overload. Furthermore, research has shown that the capacity of the working memory also depends on the type of information received. For example, it has been proven that we tend to remember more digits than letters, and short word pairings rather than long convoluted sentences. Therefore, it is no surprise that students only absorb a fraction of the information conveyed in long oral lectures and academic presentations, both within the classroom and online. Often the human brain is overstimulated and naturally selects small doses of information for storage. In response to these findings, new learning methodologies have been created to account for such challenges.

One proven strategy to overcome the working memory’s limited storage problem is the principal of ‘chunking’. Chunking is a psychologically proven method of grouping individual sets of data into larger groups, for the purpose of improving memory retention. Due to its functionality, chunking has been used across many learning pathways in order to promote an increased absorption of information.

By grouping information into defined categories, content that is more easily absorbed, rather than presenting open-ended concepts. This multiplies the amount of information that can be taken in, and also increases the amount of information that is transferred to the long-term memory.
InterActive’s learning segments contain academic content of a very short duration (usually between two and three minutes), which provides for easy information retention. This offers uncompromising flexibility for programme study, as students can watch a few or more videos at one time. The videos can be combined with any other academic content, providing for a unique and truly customisable learning experience.

Core learning principles behind our content philosophy

Attention: attention is vital for optimising working memory. The human brain is not optimised to remain attentive for long periods of time and requires regular periods of reduced intensity in order to recharge and refocus. The brain also solidifies newly-formed neural pathways during periods of lower-intensity. When the brain is forced to operate at the extreme ends of its natural limits, concentration levels drop-off, which is the brain’s method of enforcing a break.

Distraction: it’s therefore important not to overload working memory with unnecessary distractions which drain its processing power. The working memory is a powerful tool, but it’s also sensitive to interference. The inclusion of irrelevant graphics, or lengthy blocks of text that don’t clearly highlight key points, will result in an inefficient processing of information.

Practice: working memory is essentially a system of communication. New information is transferred to the long-term memory, and previously acquired information is retrieved in order to help students evaluate the world around them. This system of information recall is also vital for reinforcing new knowledge retention. Activities that require learners to summarise the information they have acquired are therefore essential.

Easily digestible content: deconstructing lessons into segments allows the working memory to process information more effectively. Individual learning units that feature a specific goal or objective should be designed to give learners the opportunity to pause between segments so that they can better absorb each piece of new information.

Activating long term memory: the student’s working memory attempts to retrieve previously acquired information pertaining to a particular topic by accessing data stored within their long term memory.

Every effort to combine short-term memories with existing knowledge held in the long term memory is beneficial to the learning process. This process allows for new information to be added to an existing schema, or existing schema to be altered as a result of new incoming data.

Our online learning methodology therefore brings together:

Unique and memorable content
Engaging teaching styles
Interactive technology
Professional development
In-depth programme monitoring

Taking all these points into consideration, it’s clear that effective learning is intimately linked to memory retention. Consequently, learning processes must be designed to maximise the efficiency of knowledge acquisition. This can be achieved by fully utilising the working memory, which serves to convert newly acquired information into long-term knowledge. Through a combination of innovative and engaging content delivered in small, manageable content packages, our content philosophy is firmly rooted in the principals of contemporary learning theory.