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Designing Courseware Based on Cognitive Load Theory

Written By Vandana Kaveti

Designing Courseware Based on Cognitive Load Theory

‘Cognitive Load Theory’ helps in instructional design and is concerned with the way a learner’s cognitive resources are guided during learning or problem-solving situations. Cognitive load theory aims to assist course designers to reduce redundant cognitive load caused by poor course design or learning material. Cognitive load depends on ‘Working memory’ and ‘Long-term memory’.

  • Working Memory: Working memory is the short-term memory that can hold limited amount of information and has, limited capacity to process information at any given point of time. Beyond this capacity, learning may not take place.
  • Long-term memory: Long-term memory refers to that body of knowledge that is stored permanently and can be retrieved when required. Information is first processed in the working memory before moving on to the long-term memory. Therefore, course designers need to consider the limited capacity of the working memory in order to make their courses effective. Here are some courseware design recommendations based on cognitive load theory:
  • Chunk the content: When loads of content is dumped, the content becomes very complex and difficult to understand. Therefore, break the course content into smaller chunks in a way that it minimizes the cognitive load on the working memory.
  • Consider learner profile: Based on whether learners are novice or experienced, you can decide on how to present the content and how much technical information can be included.
  • Use visual and auditory aids: Use relevant audio visual aids that help in learning. These aids help boost the capacity of the working memory.
  • Use worked out examples: Worked out examples are powerful means to build knowledge for long-term memory. Use examples that learners can easily relate to. This helps them to understand the content better as it reduces cognitive load.
  • Avoid redundancy: Avoid redundant and repetitive information in the course as it reduces the load on the working memory.

Keeping these guidelines in mind while designing courseware helps reduce cognitive load and create a courseware that can be managed effectively. It has been proved that when instructional material is designed keeping in mind the cognitive load theory, effective learning takes place.

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