5 Tips To Use Classical Conditioning In eLearning

5 Tips To Use Classical Conditioning In eLearning
Summary: Classical Conditioning is a theory that is widely used in the field of psychology. However, eLearning professionals can also apply it in their eLearning course design to positively reinforce performance behaviors and create effective eLearning conditions. In this article, I'll share 5 tips for using Classical Conditioning in eLearning.

How To Use Classical Conditioning In eLearning

Classical Conditioning is associated with Ivan Pavlov and John Watson. Pavlov's famous dogs were the subject of his psychological experiments, which tested their responses to stimuli. In this case, it was food. Whenever the hound would see anything that it associated with dinnertime, such as the laboratory assistant walking into the room, it would salivate. Thus, Pavlov realized that he could "condition" the dog to display a certain behavior by presenting specific triggers. Later, John Watson would expand on Pavlov's findings to form the Classical Conditioning Theory as we know it today, which involves humans instead of canines. The following 5 tips will show you how to incorporate responses, stimuli, and reinforcement into your eLearning course design based on Classical Conditioning principles.

1. Learn About Your Online Learners.

eLearning professionals must learn as much as possible about their audience. Specifically, we should uncover their unconditioned stimuli and responses so that we are able to create the perfect eLearning conditions and materials. An unconditioned stimulus is the trigger that elicits a certain response. For example, the mere mention of compliance online training (stimulus) might make them feel uneasy or stressed (response). If we know this, then we can create the ideal eLearning conditions to ease their anxiety and make the eLearning experience enjoyable. It's important to mention that unconditioned stimuli and responses are involuntary, meaning that online learners may not even be aware of them. They have no control over how the trigger impacts their actions, thoughts, or behaviors. Conduct surveys, interviews, and observations to learn as much as possible about your online learners' background, needs, and experiences.

2. Pair Stressful Activities With Calm eLearning Conditions.

Once you identify the stimulus and response, you then have the opportunity to create a conditioned stimulus. The conditioned stimulus is the "neutral" trigger that can elicit a conditioned response, which is the behavior that we want our online learners to exhibit. For example, an eLearning assessment may cause some of your online learners to experience stress or anxiety. The same goes for difficult branching scenarios or eLearning simulations that involve multiple decisions.

This stress can hinder the eLearning experience, as it distracts online learners from the subject matter and prevents them from absorbing the information. We can counteract the effects of stress and anxiety by creating calm eLearning conditions that soothe and relax them. By doing so, we remove the obstacles that are hindering their progress and help them associate eLearning with pleasant emotions. They will no longer dread eLearning, because they are conditioned to see it as a calm and tranquil online activity. A relaxing color scheme, soothing music, and a clutter-free design are all stress-reducing eLearning course elements.

3. Positively Reinforce Favorable Behaviors.

Positive reinforcement is an essential component of Classical Conditioning. Immediate criticism and constructive feedback give online learners the opportunity to correct behaviors and retain factual information. Provide the correct response and individualized eLearning feedback as soon as online learners answer an eLearning question or complete an eLearning activity. Above all else, give them personalized praise when they display favorable learning behaviors so that they get the motivation they need. Online learners who are struggling will also benefit from online resource links that point them in the right direction, such as eLearning articles and videos that simplify a complex idea. Leaderboards may also be a helpful tool, particularly when online learners have a competitive drive. Moving up the board positively reinforces their behaviors, which prompts them to display these behaviors in the future. Those who need more incentive will also benefit from badges, levels, points, and other gamification mechanics.

4. Identify Your Learning Objectives And Grading Criteria.

Online learners should have a clear understanding of where they head, how they are going to get there, and why the process is so important. In other words, you have to provide them with a road map that highlights the learning objectives, grading criteria, and eLearning benefits. Identify your learning objectives and you will track online learner progress beforehand so that you can develop an eLearning curriculum that aligns with these elements.

Classical Conditioning can be applied in virtually any eLearning course. However, it is most effective when there is a specific desired outcome. For example, if there are multiple ways to perform a task, you are not able to condition online learners. This is because there is more than one correct approach and more than one response. On the other hand, a process that is streamlined and must be performed in a certain order can involve conditioning. After you've determined your learning objectives and evaluation criteria, also add an eLearning course description and an introduction into your eLearning course syllabus, so that online learners know what to expect.

5. Get Real!

Classical Conditioning relies on context and practical application. Online learners associate a particular stimulus that they encounter in real life with a response. Realistic eLearning simulations, branching scenarios, demos, and serious games help online learners condition their behaviors to prepare them for the real world. For example, an eLearning simulation offers an introverted corporate learner the chance to interact with eLearning characters in order to improve their communication and teamwork skills. The eLearning activity would involve a calm environment and positive reinforcement that helps online learners identify strengths and modify their cognitions. When they venture into the real world, they will automatically associate group settings with feelings of relaxation and calm. Thus, they would be able to handle social situations and be more productive in collaborative settings.

Pavlov's experiment with canine companions at the turn of the 20th century still provides us with a wealth of psychological insights. Reinforcing learning behaviors and creating new, more effective associations between responses and stimuli gives online learners the power to overcome obstacles and get the full benefit from your eLearning course.

Would you like to learn more about Pavlov's theory? Read the article Instructional Design Models and Theories: Classical Conditioning to learn about the basic principles and prime examples of Classical Conditioning.