Creating Better Content with Lessons Learned

from Brain Research

The brain is arguably one of the most complex organs of the body, and one we still do not fully understand. While we do know that it weighs 3 pounds, and brain information can travel up to 268 miles per hour (the equivalent of the speed of a Bugatti Veyron, the world’s fastest car), there is still so much about the brain we don’t know. That’s why continued research is incredibly important for various reasons—from medical and technological advancements to informing how we learn.

Hand pointing to chalk drawing of brain on chalkboard

Understanding the brain helps us understand learning

What we know about how the brain functions has advanced by leaps and bounds since the 1990s (dubbed the Decade of the Brain by the U.S. Congress) with the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Research comparing images of the brain at rest and at work has revolutionized the way that we think about the brain and, consequently, how we understand methods for designing learning experiences for students.

This knowledge, developed over years of brain research, has deep implications for learning design. From strategies for improving learner retention and performance to engaging neurodiverse learners, this research is key for all instructional designers.

Putting research into practice 

Recent brain and learning research has revealed specific strategies that can be used to develop effective learning experiences. For example, interleaving, which focuses on mixing two or more related subjects, can help learners build categorization and problem-solving skills. Spaced repetition, which, as the name implies, is a strategy that involves revisiting information at set intervals, giving the brain time to take in new material.

diagram of key elements motivation of

Motivation is another area where information gathered through brain research is critical to effective learning design. Material that taps into motivation helps learners get started and stay focused, even when challenges arise. Whether you’re wondering how to capture your students’ interest or help them apply what they’re learning in meaningful ways, it’s important to get motivation right.

Brain research discoveries have also contributed to developing learning experiences that meet a wider range of learning needs. Approximately 15% of people around the globe are neurodivergent, meaning their method of processing information doesn’t fit with the societal norm or majority. This includes people with autism, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more. Not all brains work in the same way. It’s important for instructional designers to create learning experiences for all—including designing materials that empower neurodivergent students. As we discover more about the brain, improvements in instructional design can be made.

Taking the next step

The best online learning programs and courses are brain-centrically designed. This overview provides just a small sample of how brain research can be applied to creating learning content. There is an enormous amount of information available when applying brain research to instructional design and determining how to best use this information when creating content—online learning content, in particular—is not always clear. 

Not sure where to start or what the latest in brain research is? We’ve got you covered. Join CourseArc for a learning science webinar on June 9, 2022. We will cover the latest in brain research, its impact on learning, and how to apply it in building your online content. 

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CourseArc was built as a tool and team to support organizations as they build online content. Check out our resource site to see how we can help your team. See our tool in action and then check our blog and social media feeds for additional resources and case studies on how our clients are using CourseArc. Take your learning and development goals and budget to the next level.

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