Apply psychological principle of information processing in e-learning


When most people think of information processing, they think of IT and computing because it is a computing term, however, in the world of psychology, it has another meaning. It is a cognitive psychology term that sees the human mind as the information processor. A person takes in information and there is an output as a result.

Are there any principles of information processing?

No, there are not. It is a function of the body, just like sneezing or daydreaming. However, there are psychological elements that are known as cognitive elements involved with information processing in the mind. Many people compare the process to computers, but the comparison is a little flawed. If you were to compare a mind to a computer, the computer would be a highway full of cars, and your mind would be an ocean full of fish.

Mixing cognitive psychology with e-teaching and e-learning

Let’s start with the commonly-held idea that people are creatures of habit. If a student has a habit of ignoring traditional teaching methods because he or she is in the habit of doing so (usually a trait learned in school), then that habit is going to persist. It is up to you as a teacher to understand when this occurs and change your method of teaching to suit. Trying to force students to pay attention is often futile.

What about cognitive psychology and attention?

Selective attention is a person’s ability to ignore other things and concentrate on a single thing. Attention capacity is another way of defining how long a person concentrates on something.

Be careful how you use these principles. Many sub-standard teachers will teach a person something and then quit for a while because they do not want to “overload” them with information. This is often a foolish thing to do because people have a very high capacity for learning. If you cover a topic in full, then your students may not understand it all, but you can keep going over it again and again until they do. In addition, you can cover it all first, and then segment the lessons and approach it again in smaller chunks.

Test the hypothesis if you wish. If a student seems to be struggling with a simple problem, turn up the heat and make it more difficult. For example, when teaching young children to tell the time, you may use an online tool that has the big and little hands spinning around a clock. Ask the student to stop the hands at a certain time. If they continue to struggle, turn up the speed of the clock. You may find that they actually make faster progress than when the clock was moving slowly.

Use the way your students think and learn to engage with them

Doing a little research into your own students and finding out how they learn best is obviously going to help you teach more effectively. As a race, we seem to look for patterns, even if no patterns exist. HowStuffWorks created a nice article about how people still believe the Illuminati exists because people look for patterns and connect the dots where there are none to connect.

Michael Shermer said we are “Pattern-seeking animals,” meaning we are, “Neurologically hard-wired to seek explanations and put the pieces together – even when there is no connection.

Search and test for the patterns that your learners are using. If you are dedicating a little time and effort into getting into the minds of your learners, you will be a more effective teacher. Dyslexic and autistic people have very different thinking and connecting patterns to other people, which is why many traditional classes seem to fail them.

Learning by copying

We learn by copying from a very early age. There is a theory that smiling is an instinct we are born with, but it is squashed by the fact that babies may be copying what their parents do. They may not smile because they are happy, they may smile because they see their parents doing it and they start to notice that they get more attention if they smile and act cute.

How does this relate to e-teaching and e-learning?

Do not rule out the power of copying. For example, men with guy friends that are good at talking to women will often become better at it themselves. They see how their friends do it, and they learn, both consciously and unconsciously, how to talk to women in an attractive manner.

If you want to teach your students how to write better essays, then order a few from Assignment Masters and let your students see how it is done. Have your students write essays on a topic, then order some from the professionals and let the students compare theirs with the professional one. The students are not learning by plagiarism, they are simply seeing how something is done so they may understand and copy the concepts at play.

Be wary of parallel processing

Some people still claim they are expert multi-taskers, despite the fact that it is widely believed that multitasking is a myth, and that you are simply switching quickly from one task to another.

Our brains are able to parallel process things. For example, you are now breathing while your heart is beating. However, when it comes to attention, we are only capable of serial processing. Students should be dissuaded from multitasking and asked to complete one objective fully before starting the next. In addition, if your lessons include multitasking elements, do as much as you can to lower the amount a student does, and it may increase the quality of their work.


Author: Mary Kleim is an educational specialist. She is working on development E-learning Associations which is created for those who are willing to reach success by distant learning. She is going to launch her own distant course of distant course creation.

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