“They understand that learning is emotional and that mental models (often called deep learning) change slowly.”

“They understand that learning is emotional and that mental models (often called deep learning) change slowly.” (p.86) Teaching Naked How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning; Bowen, Jose Antonio

Who doesn’t remember the milestones events in their life? A wedding, a death, a new baby, a new car, a new home, divorce or starting a job – each one of these events is emotionally charged and we can recall them easily. We can remember where we were, what we were wearing and who was with us. As stated by (Bohannon, 1988) (Brown & Kulik, 1977) the emotional events in one’s life tend to be remembered with great clarity and detail.

I know that any deep learning I have gained has come with an emotional tag. It has been that “ah ha” moment when the proverbial light-bulb goes off and suddenly you see with perfect clarity what the intent is. You ponder the concept, read the journals, finish the exam or write the paper and know that you have “got it”; there is an associated feeling of satisfaction and completion that comes with the task; a general feeling of well-being.

Why do we remember those moments so clearly? I believe that any moment in our life that causes an emotional reaction to occur makes a memory. Science has proven that memory and emotion are clearly aligned; either positively or negatively.

Nothing changes overnight, however, and it is only through the consistent application of the lesson that the behavior begins to change. As instructional designers, we must be able to solidify the lesson in the learners mind and provide a way for that learner to scaffold the knowledge to what they already know. As stated by (Golding, 2011) we scaffold student learning by providing guidance and support that they need to construct knowledge. We need the learner to emotionally connect to the material, to have that “ah ha” and, at that point, it then becomes easy for the learner to recall the content and begin to apply it to real life situations.

Money and emotion – those are the two big “stick” reminders – if it costs you money – you’ll remember it or if it touches you emotionally (good or bad) you’ll remember it.

How then do we evoke emotion in our learners through e-learning? We know emotion is important in education–it drives attention, which in turn drives learning and memory. (Sylwester, 1994) How do we then tap into those feelings and emotions on a consistent basis to engage the learner and make that emotional connection?

The computer, by its very nature, is non-emotional – it’s a tool – no different than a hammer or a saw. What makes you or I react emotionally on the computer or react emotionally to what was built by the hammer and the saw, can and will be completely different. What is key, is to find that commonality that transcends individualism and reaches the masses and, we need to do that in more than one way; we need to ensure maximum exposure and engagement.

One extrinsic motivator is recognition and success; we all like to be told we are doing a good job; either in the form of your supervisor “catching you doing something right”, a colleague who tells you “way to go”, or an e-learning module that says “Well done – you’ve made it to the next level!” These words of encouragement inspire us; evoke an emotion in us, and spur us on to continue to achieve and, in this continuation to achieve, the deep learning starts to root. As stated by (Shan, 2008) The sense of satisfaction comes from success and also the effort on work comes from seeking for success, which can be said to be one of the basic motivations of human beings.

Another extrinsic motivator is cash – virtual coin (incentive) can be written into our e-learning modules by employing the concepts of gamification into our design. Virtual worlds are built and managed by billions of people every day and purchases are being made in online currency like Bitcoins. Can we, as instructional designers, have our learners tend their respective “learning gardens” and be rewarded in virtual coin for a reaping a successful L&G crop? The possibilities are as endless as the code they are written in. The trick is to build the right lock, provide the learner with the right keys and give them the necessary foundation to unlock their learning potential.


Bohannon, J. N. (1988). Flashbulb memories of the space shuttle disaster: A tale of two theories. Cognition, 179-196.

Brown, R., & Kulik, J. (1977). Flashbulb memories:. Cognition, 73-99.

Golding, C. (2011). The Many Faces of Constructivist Discussion. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 479.

Shan, G. (2008, May). Emotional Teaching – An Effective Approach to Improve CET. International Education Studies, 142-144.

Sylwester, R. (1994). How Emotions Affect Learning. Reporting What Students are Learning, 60-65.


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