September 5, 2019
Learning is a process that is not the same for everyone. There have been a number of learning theories that have been propounded in order to explain how learning takes place, and all of them have some takers.
While some are accepted by a large number of professionals in the field of learning and development, others are not. Sometimes theories becomes obsolete with time. However, every learning theory gives us an insight into the mind of a different type of learner. Let’s have a look at one such theory which has its basis on actual brain research. This theory describes learning as a cycle and explains that our brain asks 5 questions of itself as it travels through each of the 5 phases of this cycle. Everyone goes through this cycle while learning new things, knowingly or unknowingly. Knowing how the brain works in relation to learning can give new insights to eLearning professionals, which is why this article will explain what these 5 questions are, what they mean and how eLearning professionals can use them to their advantage.
The first time a learner encounters the subject they need to learn, their brain asks the question, “Why?”: ‘Why is this important? Why is it worth my time? Why should I learn this?’ This means that an eLearning course should be able to answer this question within the first minute of its commencement by a learner. Listing down the objectives of the course or module in a clear, precise manner would ensure that the first question in the learning cycle is answered, meaning that the brain can move on to the next question.
The second phase is the “What?” phase, where the brain asks questions like: ‘What is this? What should I know about this? What will be achieved by learning this?’ Which is why in this phase, when the learner has understood why learning about a particular subject is important, an eLearning course must begin to explain what the subject or skill at hand is, and what will learning this subject lead to. Once the eLearning program has begun explaining the skill to the learner, there is another question that arises in the learner’s mind, ‘What else can I learn about this?’ Thus, it is important to provide resources to the learner in an eLearning course for further learning, every step of the way.
This is the phase where the learner has had some information about the subject or skill they are learning and their minds move to “How?”. As in, ‘How can I apply this skill? How is this skill useful? How does it work?’ Thus, in this phase, the eLearning module must explain the applications of this skill, perhaps using video demonstrations or step by step info-graphics.
Once the learner has had a good grasp of this concept explained to them in the eLearning course, the brain moves on to the next question, which is “Where?”: ‘Where do I apply this skill? Where do I go from here? Where can this skill take me?’ In this phase it is important that an eLearning course explains in detail the places and instances where this skill is useful, what is to be done after applying this skill, and how this skill advances their professional or personal life.
Finally, at the end of the course, the learner should have learned all the course had to offer on the subject. The learner’s mind then goes to the final phase of the cycle, which us “If?” For example, ‘If I do something different, will the results be any different? If I apply this skill in the real world, will it work? If this doesn’t work, what will I do?’ At the conclusion of the course, there are always questions which need to be addressed by an expert. The ‘if’ questions result in innovative techniques developed by learners to complete a specific task, make accommodations to theoretical knowledge, for the transformation of information into useful and valuable knowledge.
When eLearning is created keeping in mind this learning cycle, learners develop the answers to all of their questions and thus no phase is skipped, resulting in a complete learning experience.
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Daniel Brown is a senior technical editor and writer that has worked in the education and technology sectors for two decades. Their background experience includes curriculum development and course book creation.