Make Your Brain Happy by Learning Something Online

All I can say is that I knew it all along. Jacqueline Barnes of Litmos LMS says that “our brains love learning online.” Or I guess it would be more accurate to say that research is possibly indicating that certain aspects of the online experience help us to enjoy the learning process a bit more.

A closer look at the research shows that it is not really just anything and everything about online learning that help us learn better, but specific concepts and ideas focused primarily on engagement, social presence, encouragement, and immediacy. What I don’t see in the research is any mention of long lecture capture videos, digitizing standardized tests and uploading them online, 500-slide death by PowerPoint modules, or any of the other standards that we typically see in online courses.

In other words, the bad, boring teaching concepts that have been bad, boring teaching concepts for centuries will continue to be bad, boring teaching concepts no matter how much technology we wrap around them. [ahem…. iBooks 2?]

So many times when I read about certain colleges putting “free courses” online I cringe – when all they are really doing is putting popular lecture captures online. I have tried to watch these free videos and no matter how well spoken or humorous the professor is, I just can’t sit there and watch to the end without my attention wandering.

What these recent studies don’t necessarily say directly – but they still possibly prove – is that our brains are happy when we are actively engaged in the learning process. Passively sitting there and staring at the screen for a long time? Not so much. I hate to admit it, but that is why I have never been able to get into the Khan Academy that much. If you love it – great. I just need more engagement and less “sit and stare.”

Matt Crosslin

Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

2 thoughts on “Make Your Brain Happy by Learning Something Online

  1. Great point, Matt. Can’t agree with you more on this. I’m not a “sit and stare” person either. I guess that’t the fun part — how we can make the learners engaged in the learning content. Unfortunately, my daily work is still a lot of long ppt. Pice over and long captured videos…… I guess there is still long distance between the ideal online learning and the reality….
    Really enjoy reading the journals here.

  2. Matt Crosslin

    Hey Sunny – great to hear from you! Thanks for reading. I don’t know if you heard, but the CDE actually moved back on campus. No more free parking :)

    I agree that there is still a long way between ideal and reality. I have to do the same thing with so many classes. I will give the whole speech on active, engaged learning, and then get a bunch of text back for class “activities”. Hopefully we are getting there soon :)

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