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With advances in neuroscience and educational technology, student learning has been lifted into a new stratosphere.

Rather than a default learning model, there’s now a fluidity in the way educators can deliver content, interact with students, take on feedback, and modify their teaching approach.

Students have access to seamless e-learning experiences influenced by behavioural psychology and the latest research on how the brain works.

With these advances in the classroom, learning has changed forever in these four impressive ways.

1. Learning becomes seamless and data-driven

We all learn differently.

Adaptive learning technology uses algorithms to track student performance and modify the presentation of material based on this tracking. It’s built on the understanding that we all learn differently.

Analysing trends in online behaviour, it adapts the way e-learning is delivered to better suit individual needs.

This adaptive approach benefits the entire educational eco-system, from student to facilitator, helping deliver:

  • personalised learning: combining data, analytics and the latest in neuroscience and pedagogy, to customise e-learning and assessment

  • automated teaching: reducing in-class time, and making learning more scalable, accessible, and transparent

  • closer student-teacher relationships: where students can master content in their own time, and educators can take on facilitator and leader roles

For Rebecca Bridges, learning designer at Laureate International Universities, keeping e-learning adaptive also requires continual input from educators out in the field.

“To create a great interactive learning environment requires dedicated professionals at multiple levels,” says Bridges. Involving educators every step of the way helps Bridges design for real-life users and adapt to new educational theory and practice.

2. Extraneous cognitive load is reduced

Extraneous cognitive load is the mental effort we use when trying to block out external distractions. We all have limits to how much information we can hold in mind. Anything we can do to minimise the load on our thinking, such as reducing distractions, will help us manage these constraints.

It can impact our critical thinking and memory recall – and not for the better. Learning designers, like Bridges, understand this keenly and apply a range of design techniques to eliminate cognitive load from e-learning, such as:

  • seamless integration: bringing all learning resources into one fluid online experience without any external distractions

  • mixed learning: combining elements like digital text, media, and assessment into cohesive, immersive experiences

  • spaced learning: delivering content in modular, staged segments that are simple to absorb and manage

  • embedded prompts, cues, and highlights: to keep students on track and engaged and relieve them of the burden of thinking about where they are up to

  • interactive activities and challenges: helping students absorb key concepts and apply critical thinking without breaking concentration

By removing external distractions, learning occurs more easily, results improve, and students stay engaged.

It also helps support a flipped classroom model, which is fundamental to Bridges’ design approach.

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“The flipped classroom is something that my workplace embraces wholeheartedly and works really well in the area of andragogy,” she says.

3. The metacognitive is strengthened

Metacognition is how we think about our own learning, and research shows it’s critical to boosting student performance. Kevin Saide, Training Manager at the Centre for Training in Social Housing, and his team of developers apply a range of techniques to strengthen the metacognitive.

“We prepare learners by sending materials out beforehand – not wads of paper but short fact sheets, links to videos, case studies etc. then use the classroom to engage and discuss,” says Saide.

Saide’s team also strengthen learning awareness, through:

  • personalised feedback: to encourage critical thinking and help students develop strategies to tackle challenges

  • learning by example: using videos, presentations, and real-life scenarios to encourage metacognition in learners

  • extra online materials: that students can review at home and reflect on their learning processes

  • ongoing peer review: in class, and through online forums and social media tools

This approach has a lasting impact on academic performance, helping Saide’s students remember facts, perform tasks, and better prepare for exams. By stating the learning intention and showing how they are going to cover the material, they are encouraging students to think about their learning and monitor their own progress.

4. Learning becomes fun and social

When we belong to a group, the brain responds by releasing dopamine, which helps with memory retention and motivates us to act. Given this, educational technologies that promote social interaction can significantly boost student retention and performance. For Bridges, gamification, in particular, helps keep learning fun, social and easy to absorb.

“Gamification is a relatively new ideology that is entering the educational arena but one that I believe to have real, lasting potential with the new generation of learners,” says Bridges.

Games with features like rewards, advice, and feedback increase motivation. If students are motivated, they’re likely to stay at a task or practice a skill for longer.

This kind of immersive learning also feeds into the science of brain plasticity.

By offering richer and more interactive edtech experiences that stimulate the entire sensory nervous system, and allow for lots of challenge and opportunities to practice, students of any age can build on their neuroplasticity through a diversity of learned experiences.

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It’s an e-learning revolution

Neuroscience and educational technology have not only reshaped the way learning is delivered but revolutionised the way we think about education as a whole.

Learning is transformed into a highly personalised process that’s deeply invested, not only in getting results, but in building stronger minds, more expansive neural pathways, and individuals with a love for education.

Educators can take a dynamic, data-driven approach that challenges students to think critically, solve socially, and diversify how their learning occurs.

And students can transform from passive learners into active engagers who take control of their academic pathways.

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