Busting E-learning Myths Part 5: Visual Stimulation Versus Cognitive Value


E-learning myth: visual stimulation vs. cognitive value

From big data to burst learning, virtual reality to adaptive logic, several digital trends promise to deliver cutting-edge capabilities that can engage learners and embed knowledge like never before. On the one hand, some of these trends represent meaningful applications of modern technology that can take learning efficacy to the next level. On the other, some are not nearly as effective in application as one might expect. To separate fact from fiction in the digital age, corporate leaders must deconstruct some common e-learning myths to get at the core of what drives engagement, knowledge retention, and ultimately, return on investment.

Looking Good Or Feeling Better? Visual Stimulation Versus Cognitive Value


Animations and videos are becoming the “go to” tools for engaging learners.


The output of visual stimulation is short-lived, which doesn’t further the long-term goal of teaching people to make effective choices. Consider a manufacturer that produces a sleek new phone. Even if its elegance is unsurpassed, buyers will quickly abandon the phone if it doesn’t have good sound quality. Learning is no different. Designers can create a more attractive shell for the content, but if the methodology isn’t sound, the learning experience won’t deliver cognitive value. The litmus test for any type of visual aid is whether or not it increases true efficacy. Does it make the solution less fatiguing for learners in terms of the amount of productive time they must spend with it? Does it force them to “lean in” and make decisions? Does it enable learners to apply the information to real-world business situations, giving them the confidence needed to succeed? If not, the solution might charm learners with its good looks for a little while, but it won’t make them feel better about what they know and how to apply it. Because the novelty of visual stimulation wears off very quickly, the effort and expense of development typically becomes a sunk cost with minimal return.

Digital technologies have the power to transform learning just as they have reshaped other functions. By deconstructing common myths, learning professionals can better discern the difference between buzzwords and meaningful technological capabilities. Armed with this knowledge, they can further shift their mindset to view learning as the dynamic, measurable process it has become today as opposed to the fixed-format, check-the-box exercise it has been in the past. This is what true adaptive learning platforms have to offer: a living, breathing way to modernize the learning function, measure human behavior and enhance learning efficacy.

Missed the previous parts of this series?

Busting E-learning Myths Part 1: Separating Effective Training From Trends
Busting E-learning Myths Part 2: Data Versus Insight
Busting E-learning Myths Part 3: Expediency Versus Practicality
Busting E-learning Myths Part 4: Sensory Input Versus Simulation

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