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Why are learning activities important?

Why are Learning Activities Important

Learning activities are anything built into your course that helps the learner interact with the content and deepen the learning. 

Before we discuss what learning activities look like, we need to step back and take a look at why they are important. 

Learning theory and Brain Theory show the importance of learning activities

Learning theory suggests learners need to interact with the material to learn it well. 

Brain theory has its own set of guidelines on how to make stuff stick. Let’s look at brain theory for a moment. 

The brain has two modes, focused and diffuse. I’ve written more in-depth about those in this previous post. What we need to know here is that focused mode with what your brain is in when it’s actively trying to learn new information. 

The brain focuses on whatever it’s trying to learn and the front of the brain is engaged. This is where working memory lives. 

Working memory is effectively temporary. Stuff can live there for a while, but it will fade away if it’s not moved into long-term memory.

The other feature of working memory that is important here is that space is limited. Brain research has shown that working memory has room to hold about four things on average. If more things get shoved in, then something gets pushed out. 

This is true unless you can hook the new stuff to something that is already in long-term memory. 

How do learning activities fit in?

Learning activities are designed to move new information from working memory to long-term memory. They can do this in a number of ways. 

A simple recall activity such as, “Write down all the steps from the previous lesson that you can remember without looking back,” tells the brain that the information you are looking for is rather important and perhaps it should store it away a little deeper so it isn’t lost. 

A reflection activity where you ask learners to connect what they just learned to something in their personal or professional lives has the effect of hooking the new information to something that’s already in long-term memory. 

You can even take advantage of sleep and diffuse mode by assigning learners a task that can only be done over a series of days. This gives the learner reason to recall the information each day and let their brain go into diffuse mode in between each time. 

As a course creator, the ability to choose learning activities is one of the more powerful abilities you have. Choosing simple learning activities that don’t move the learning forward is simply a waste. Use your power for good!

Your Turn

Reflect on how you learn. If you can’t think of anything right away, go learn something! And pay attention to how you interact with what you’re learning. 

Do you review the information more than once? Do you take notes? Do you have to stop and try before moving on? How do you learn?

This type of activity gives you insight into how people learn. There are lots of ways to learn but probably not as many ways as there are people. That means that lots of people learn in some of the same ways as you. And that is valuable information.

As a course creator, you need to understand how people learn so you can design effective courses for them. 

Community Conversation

Once you’re done with the activity, head over to the companion Youtube video and tell us how it went in the comments. How do you learn? Did you gain any insight? Did anything surprise you? 

I’d like you to put these in the comments so that I can interact with you. But also because every one of you is a varied and different person and a different learner. This gives everybody who participates and reads the comments valuable information to help them build a better course, including you. 

Want more?

If you’re just getting started creating your online course, check out How To Write Goals, Objectives, And Outcomes For Your Online Course

Download my free ebook Online Course Creation Made Easy: 25 Activities to Engage Your Online Learners.

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