In this current blog series we share research based tips on how to get the most out of virtual learning programs so people engage, memorize and apply new skills.  Critical, is the installation of new brain PARTS. Quite literally. Let’s look at the A in PARTS:  Activate attention.

Major scientific breakthroughs are shifting the way we reskill and develop highly diverse and increasingly remote workforces. Based on this research, the ‘how’ of learning has evolved rapidly to make sure we effectively digest, memorize and recall new information. These insights are improving the design, uptake and ROI of today’s learning programs.

Build a web

Neuroscientists such as Dr. Lila Davachi at New York University discovered that our brain needs to build a ‘web’ of connections associated with newly learned information. The stronger the ‘web’, the easier it is to recall and apply new knowledge. And the extent to which learning curriculum activates a specific part of the brain, the Hippocampus, which helps build this ‘web’, turning short-term memories into long-term ones, determines whether the knowledge is retained, or not.

The more the Hippocampus is activated during learning, the more likely people will remember and be able to use new information long after the learning event. Sounds complicated? Turns out that it’s actually very simple. A key way to do this is to hold the learners’ focus and attention. This was easier with classroom training. Smart companies established ‘no gadgets’ classroom rules and ensured regular breaks and coffee to help people focus. But what about in highly virtual office situations where kids, pets, homes, and technology are all competing for, and constraining, our daily ability to pay attention?

Six tips

Here are six tips you can use immediately to help activate and hold learners’ attention:

  1. Keep it tight: Keep learning to small periods of time i.e. 90mins or less.
  2. Incorporate goals: Memorable learning goals boost dopamine levels and accountability.
  3. Use visual cues: Remember, a picture is worth 1000 words.
  4. Use reminders: Make technology your friend here!
  5. Limit distractions: Set expectations for gadgets and camera use.
  6. Call on people: Knowing we might be called on to share ideas and answers, keeps us alert.

Studies have shown that even a mildly distracted individual will not be able to pay enough attention to new information, to enable them to retain and later recall it.

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