A key advantage of High-Res eLearning is the ability to visually frame the subject matter in its context.
As discussed in the previous article, context is what gives content relevance that helps information “stick” in the minds of learners.
In this article, we will examine some of the cognitive science and educational theory that supports using the zooming capability of High-Res eLearning in workplace training because of the immersive learning environment it facilitates.
Can the act of zooming in on an image really help you learn new information? Let’s consider a hypothetical situation.
Imagine you’re planning a visit by car to the office of professional associates, located in a downtown building in a nearby but relatively unfamiliar city.
You’ve just gotten off the phone with them and you’re looking at the street address on one of their business cards. On the back, you’ve hastily jotted down their “straight shot” directions: “Once you get into Old Town, ignore GPS. They’ve rerouted all the streets to one-ways. If you need parking, hang a left just before the former Met Life building. That’s the second tallest building you see as you’re driving in on eastbound 96.”
Huh? You load up Google Maps on your phone and look at the step-by-step directions that result from typing in their street address. Sure enough, it seems to take you to an entirely different location. You scrutinize the map for clues. Where in the world is the former Met Life building?
What most of us do in this type of situation, of course, is toggle into satellite mode, then drop ourselves into Google Street View. We familiarize ourselves with the landmarks visually, zooming in and panning around to explore.
When we do this, we are orienting ourselves with a series of still images. Those images become associated with the spatial memory we recall as we navigate in the real world.
Spatial memory is partly a function of the hippocampus, a unique region of the brain that researchers believe is responsible for much of our higher-order memory processing. This aspect of memory includes our ability to navigate in everyday life.
Because it is also necessary for survival, spatial memory is deeply encoded in our neural pathways. This makes utilizing such memories efficient on the brain; long-term spatial memories do not heavily contribute to our “cognitive load.” Indeed, in driving to work, we often “zone out” and do not feel taxed by remembering the route. We frequently unconsciously call up locations and information about physical spaces in our minds while being absorbed in other, more demanding tasks.
While other parts of the brain are also engaged in memory formation, the hippocampus is believed to be where information from other regions comes together. It provides a sort of cognitive cross-listing of item and context information processed in other regions of the brain.
The hippocampus helps us process new information by cross-referencing our memories in an analogical way.
An analogy, in the simplest terms, is a comparison between two things for the purpose of clarification. An analogy is often a shorthand way to describe something else.
In order to describe the structure of an atom, for example, you might liken it to the solar system. The nucleus in the center is comparable to the sun, with the electrons as tiny planets revolving around it. Although an atom and the solar system are really very different in their properties, the comparison has practical use. The superficial similarity of their structure allows for a vivid mental picture to be formed.
Analogies are great teaching tools because they help logically draw out similarities between two things in order to strengthen understanding of new material.
And just as we make analogies in our everyday lives, the brain has a way of mapping relationships between similar experiences. In learning, this is called analogical reasoning.
Analogical reasoning is a cognitive process in which the brain forms connections between new information and a similar situation already stored in memory. A memory, called the “base,” serves as a familiar context for new information, called the “target.”
In creating High-Res eLearning courses, designers must take into consideration how to involve both the target – which they bring to the learner – and the base of prior knowledge the learner brings into the course.
How does analogical reasoning relate to zooming in on an image in an eLearning context?
In a sense, the brain is always learning through analogies, determining how similar new information is to what it has already encountered. This process is efficient, allowing the brain to pull from its vast stores of memories only those solutions and situations similar to present information.
Learning, like memory formation, is ultimately the connection of new information to prior knowledge.
The hippocampus compares the present with past experience, resulting in learning and memory consolidation that allows us to navigate – both in the literal sense of moving around a place and figuratively, in the way we make decisions and change our behavior to avoid future mistakes.
Most importantly, analogical reasoning, when combined with our cognitive navigation ability, enables us not only to internalize our surroundings – it also allows us to formulate new ways of solving problems.
Zooming and panning facilitate the promotion of analogical reasoning by allowing the learner to discover familiar “sub-scenes” within a larger scene. In a workplace training context, these sub-scenes could be a control panel or group of tools within a large photograph that are similar to environments in which a learner has previously worked. The sub-scenes call up the “base” of prior experiences the learner has stored away in memory, and connect them to the “target” of new information presented in the course.
Designers of eLearning courses have long understood that learners take in more information when more parts of the brain are stimulated. For that reason, photography, charts and other visualizations are highly encouraged.
In traditional eLearning formats, learners typically review several types of media including text, images and other visual representations, videos, and test questions. Learners click through a series of links or screens as they complete modules, then perform assessments at the end.
A limitation of this approach, however, is that for certain types of subjects, the separation of material across multiple screens risks disjointing the learning process.
High-Res eLearning, like Google Street View, allows users to zoom and pan to take in the context of a full scene. In manufacturing, healthcare, and other industries, employers require workplace training courses that provide immersive courses to activate visual and spatial learning in trainees.
Adult learners do best in self-directed, contextual settings. In the process of zooming and moving around in an extremely high-resolution image within a High-Res eLearning module, a learner can take their time to examine an item up close. By zooming out, a learner sees the full setting. They can click on items within in hotspots in the image to learn more without leaving the scene.
Hotspots can be associated with multimedia videos, links to reading, challenge questions, and more. When a learner reads a challenge question and answers it, they receive immediate feedback. One important benefit to this structure is that constructive feedback within the scene promotes retention of the answer.
Cognitively, the process of working through a High-Res eLearning course is closer to the experience of virtual reality than the screen-to-screen modules of traditional online learning.
Zooming and examining a scene independently in a “virtual walk-through” facilitates what researchers call “item-context binding” in the hippocampus. The more association a learner makes between items and context, the more likely the hippocampus is engaged.
In summary, the High-Res eLearning format enhances learning by processing memories of items along with the context in which they appear, binding them in memories that represent the experience as a whole. That contextual representation, when recalled in a new situation, allows the learner to leverage fuller knowledge in new analogical reasoning scenarios with less cognitive load on the process.
Learn more about how High-Res eLearning revolutionizes training courses, and how to get started on your first High-Res eLearning course.
If you’d like to see for yourself how High-Res eLearning is changing the landscape of eLearning, request a live demo. Contact Klixel8 at https://klixel8.com/#live-demo or call us toll free at (833) KLIXEL8 (833.554.9358) to learn more.
The Klixel8 eLearning team has learning designers and technical developers experienced in developing High-Res eLearning applications ready to show you around.