To learn our brains have to process new information in our working memory. This is the place we store stuff until it can be converted into permanent long-term memory. When we are conscious we are only using our working memory until we retrieve long-term into working memory (short-term memory) where it is processed once again.
Therefore, course information must take place in working memory. When people are learning the gateway is the working memory zone.
The working memory zone has rules and regulations.
The rules above are true for both newbies and expert learners.
This means if one is given too much new material too quickly or in a disordered way, the working memory will glitch or overload. Cognitive overload!
Hence, learning will not and cannot occur if the main processor doesn't have enough memory.
However, sequencing information appropriately is a workaround to utilizing a learner's long-term memory. You'll get around the limitations of the working memory and tap directly into the long-term memory.
This is achieved through schemas. Schemas are the combination of taking several elements of information and chunking them into a single element that is able to be processed by working memory. Basically, if you want to taste tofu, oil, rice noodles, shrimp, fish sauce, rice vinegar, eggs, peanuts, bean sprouts, lemon, green onions, and red pepper you could taste a tablespoon of each. I bet you'd be tired of the experiment after you got to fish sauce. Instead, crush it all together and make some pad thai! Yum.
This is what schemas are. Condensing an entire recipe into one tasty dish.
The more recipes you make the more complex you can get with your next dish. The combination of lower-level schemas into higher-level schemas creates expertise and skilled performance. In addition, repetition can create an automation in the learner and the schema becomes automatic. Raise your hand if you've made a recipe so many times you have it memorized. I have and it's gluten-free quiche.
The ability to retrieve information on demand in new situations in the future is the instructional design goal. Thus, the instructional designer must carefully manage cognitive load of the working memory to allow the processing of schemas and their automation (repetition).
How many things need to be learned simultaneously = interactivity.
How complex is the information? Complex information that has to be learned simultaneously = high intrinsic load.
The intrinsic load of information cannot be changed by instructional design, but the presentation can.
Reduce intrinsic load by:
Extraneous cognitive load is how the information is presented to learners. Extraneous load also refers to the material that does not directly contribute to learning and may in fact hinder it.
Reduce extraneous cognitive load by:
The instructional design that fosters germane cognitive load wins! Germane cognitive load is where the facilitation of automated schemas happens.
Increase germane cognitive load by:
Sweller, J. 2004. Instructional design consequences of an analogy between evolution by natural selection and human cognitive architecture. Instructional science, 32(1-2), pp. 9-31.
Sweller, J. 1994. Cognitive Load Theory, Learning Difficulty, and Instructional Design. Learning and Instruction, 4: 295-312.
Sweller, J. 1988. Cognitive Load During Problem Solving: Effects on Learning. Cognitive Science, 12, 257-285.