The process of learning is an important and implicit part of the users’ interaction with products, both in a digital and non-digital realm. It is a continuous process, regardless of their level of expertise or previous familiarity with the subject matter. It begins with the users’ initial interaction with the product and continues all the way through as most advanced functions and features are learned. An effective learning experience can greatly enhance the users’ overall experience with the product.
The action of learning is a three-step process, comprised of Information Acquisition, Information Processing and Information Cataloging/Action Taking. Let’s take a look at what is involved in each of these three steps.
The goal of this discussion is to explore the nature of the action of learning, as well as to define what factors ensure the most effective learning process for the user.
The Action of Learning
The action of learning is a three-step process, comprised of Information Acquisition, Information Processing and Information Cataloguing/Action Taking. Let’s take a look at what is involved in each of these three steps.
In this first step, the user receives new information from a single source or from multiple sources. This new information may be presented in a visual, auditory, or sensory format.
In the second step, the user processes the newly acquired information by acknowledging and understanding its meaning. This step is dependent on the user’s individual mental processing capabilities, which may vary from person to person. The user’s previous familiarity with similar types of information may play a significant role in his/her processing of this new information.
Information Cataloguing and Action Taking
Having processed the newly received information the user in turn then stores it for future use by mentally cataloguing it. As part of this cataloguing process, the user creates necessary contextual associations to easily access the newly learned information at a later date. At times, as we will see shortly, the Action Taking is conducted without the need for Cataloguing.
Later in this discussion we will look at some of the factors, which provide for a more effective learning process for the user. Now, however, let’s take a look at a commonplace example, which will illustrate the three steps involved in the action of learning. I refer to this as the Traffic Light Sequence.
Step 1 — Information Acquisition
As the driver approaches an intersection, the traffic light changes from green to yellow; a visual cue. The driver acquires this new information and acknowledges the change in the traffic light. His/her ability to understand the meaning of this event will largely be based on previously learned information about the individual meanings of the colors of the traffic light.
Step 2 — Information Processing
Having acknowledged that the traffic light changed, the driver has to process the actual meaning of this event. The driver is aware that a certain action is needed to respond to the change in the traffic light. Other ambient factors may require additional mental tasks and calculations on the part of the driver, such as noticing the presence of the police vehicle within the driver’s peripheral vision. These ambient factors place an additional burden on the driver’s decision-making capability to take the most effective (and safe) course of action.
Step 3 — Action Taking
Having completed the information-processing task(s) the driver makes the decision to apply the brakes and come to a complete stop. This action completes the third and last step in this sequence.
The Elements of Learning
The action of learning is a highly individualized process in that it varies from person to person. There are several factors that can make the learning process more effective and user-friendly.
Often highly complex, information needs to be properly formatted and presented to its intended audience in a concise and effective way. Clarity of presentation plays a critical role in the overall learning process. It is important to consider proper visual and/or audio delivery methods. Information architecture, spatial organization, layout considerations, data density and sound levels, among others things, need to be carefully considered.
To ensure effective information delivery and enhance the users’ learning experience, it is important to select and apply the most effective methods of information delivery. For example, learning new features of a digital platform may require a combination of methods, such as instructional training, online resources, collaborative workshops and user manuals. The lecture format, a popular if not somewhat outdated method of information delivery, is widely used in higher education. This form of learning requires students to understand and retain the information presented by their instructor during a lecture. There are a number of factors in the use of this information delivery format, however, that can make the students’ learning process very challenging, including the instructors’ voice, cadence, rhythm of speech, accent, physical posture, their energy level, as well as their ability to effectively hold the attention of a lecture hall.
It is not enough to simply present the new information to students; it is equally critical to effectively illustrate to students the relevance of this new information as it applies to real-world, current industry examples. This is one of the biggest factors, which, in my opinion, is often lacking in the instructional realm of academia.
Empathy is a key element of effective information delivery. This is particularly true in an interactive form as part of the instructional process. This in turn leads to a much more effective and enjoyable learning experience for the user. Understanding the holistic and conceptual framework of what they are learning, also allows them to apply new skills and information much more effectively. This is why it is very important for the instructor to not only explain the “what” and the “how,” but also the “why.”
The factors described above are equally important in both the educational and corporate environment. The latter includes departments such as Development, Operations, Product and Human Resources, where effective instructional methods play a critical role.
The more complex and advanced the information is, the greater the instructional effort needs to be made, to deliver an effective and user-friendly learning experience to a technologically and intellectually diverse audience. Available instructional resources need to be properly researched and analyzed. Appropriate content delivery methods need to be carefully selected. Moreover, the information delivery methods may need to be customized and modified, should the need arise, even during the ongoing instructional process.
In the end, such an approach will improve the users’ learning processes, ultimately enhancing their overall experience of learning.
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