The human brain is magnificent and its capacity to learn new information is astounding, yet limited. Our limitations aren’t a result of the myth that we are yet to unlock our full potential through some miraculous drug that can take our brain usage from 8% to 100% in an instant, like popular media would suggest (let’s not dwell, here, on the scientific inaccuracies of the film “Lucy”). Instead, limitations in learning are as a result of the brain’s processing capacity at any given moment – overstimulation could lead to cognitive overload and interrupt the encoding of new information as well as the retrieval of previously learned information (“Thinking, fast and slow” by Daniel Kahneman (2011)).
Learning further requires of us to remain engaged and alert, which necessitates novelty, a variety of input/external stimulation, and for information to be consumed in a manner that does not put strain on our cognitive resources – thus, smaller chunks, divided into similar categories, and digested during short, focused learning sessions.
In keeping the human brain’s strengths and weaknesses in mind, we don’t have to ponder too long on why online training offers learning advantages that traditional classroom environments cannot:
1. Self-paced – Even when a time limitation is placed on online courses, the learning timeframe factors in that most learners would be taking a course in their spare time. Self-paced learning allows people with different learning styles to work through course content without undue pressure on their mental resources.
2. Freedom to decide on learning time of day and setting – Online learning offers flexibility in that the learner is able to select the time of day and the location in which to study that best suits their learning style. Some people study more effectively first thing in the morning, while others might fare better at the end of the day. It is also noteworthy that different people experience optimum mental acuity in different settings (distraction-free vs. a creative space). Coggno’s Training University, as an example, lets learners complete their training wherever they have access to the internet and on most devices, thus allowing Training University users to take control of their studies based on their learning needs.
3. Incorporates a variety of input – Online training platforms typically incorporate a variety of media, which caters to our brains’ need for novelty and a variety of (cohesive) input in order to optimally encode and retain new information, via e.g. presentations with text and imagery relating to the same topics, video clips which pair visual and auditory inputs, in addition to more traditional typed-out notes.
We cannot overlook the advantages of online training that aren’t necessarily related to brain science, but ones that directly affect businesses’ bottom lines:
4. More cost-effective than traditional training – Online learning eliminates the need for employees to, simultaneously, take time out of their busy work days to attend a lengthy training session which does not necessarily keep their attention. Many of us can probably recall a time where we were supposed to pay attention to a trainer, but used the time to catch up on emails instead. Coggno’s Training University allows users to select courses most relevant to their skill requirements (thus eliminating paying for unnecessary training) and even offers discounted rates for a wide variety of courses, depending on the number of licenses an organization requires.
5. Tracking and reporting functionality – Training is only useful in as far as it adds to learners’ knowledge base and translates into improved employee performance. Online training platforms usually have the capacity to track learners’ performance, training progress, and test/exam results. The Coggno Training University offers rich data to inform performance assessments and possible additional training requirements, and to keep track of training for compliance purposes.
By bearing the human brain’s capacity for learning (and its limitations) in mind, an organization may be better equipped to cater to their employees’ training and learning needs.
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