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Ban Cognitive Overload!


What the heck is ‘cognitive overload’? It’s a modern curse in the training industry and one which has been inflicted on the students who have to suffer classes full of large numbers of people getting through high amounts of content in a short space of time.

You can recognise cognitive overload when you start glazing over, you get bored or you start to make lots of mistakes in your lesson.

It’s happens because there is not enough time for your short term memory to absorb the information you are receiving and transfer it into your working or long term memory. You transfer knowledge into your working memory through practicing what you have learnt and making it second nature to you.

So, why is there so much cognitive overload and why is it so common? Well, I blame calendars. This little mechanism for keeping organised is very useful when you have lots of appointments to keep and it is very convenient for scheduling courses.

Many courses are run between Monday and Friday from 9am to 4-30pm (4-30? I wish I could get off that early!) which is understandable. The problem with this model is that the common response from a student attending a course is that they have forgotten two thirds of what they learnt in the course within a week or two.

They forget it because either they don’t get the opportunity to practice their new skills or they have had to suffer eight days of content crammed into five days of training. This is a waste of time as well as money and it is cogitatively flawed. 

We learn by doing. That’s the way we have evolved and it is the way our brains work. We absorb information into our short term memory and we make the knowledge useful by repeating, rehearsing and practicing what we have learnt.

The training industry has forgotten this important fact and, through a lack of imagination, they have based their learning principles on what they can fit into five days of a calendar rather than how humans learn.

They do this, also, because  they can make the training cheap when they cram as many people into the same room as possible. I know many training companies whose booking systems are based on the booking systems of airlines. That’s great for booking people onto courses but you will get Ryanair treatment when you attend and all no-frills airlines will only take you so far in your journey.

So, what’s the alternative?

The alternative is to go back to traditional learning methods combined with 21st century technology to make it cognitively sound and economically viable. The traditional learning methods allow students to practice the knowledge they have gained and which will make them more competent, deliver it in short chunks so they can absorb it easily, allow them more time to practice again and deliver it through web so that it cuts out unnecessary expense such as hotel bills and subsistence costs.

Who can do this? We can. www.retendo.co.uk We are banning cognitive overload!

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