Episodic Learning

All learning is an experience-based process. What happens when experiences are recorded in our brain is very fascinating.

Any classroom or outside-of-classroom activity is an experience. Each experience is recorded in our brain as a mini-episode. Over our life time, we record millions of mini-episodes. Some are much more vivid than others.

Dr. Antonio Damasio, renowned neuroscientist and Director of USC Brain and Creativity Institute, explains that these mini-episodes (i.e., experiences) are associated with a change of body state (COBS) – a physical state in the brain that results from the body’s response to external stimuli. The COBS correspond to various emotions ranging from horror to euphoria.

Examples of mini-episodes include our vivid recall of our wedding day, job promotion, car accident, child being born, and funeral for our loved one. Mini-episodes also include less vivid events that occur every day at school, work, and home.

The episodic learning tip to take away is that even instructional experiences (e.g., eLearning, classroom training) are mini-episodes. If you design them in a way to invoke emotion, such as what can be produced from humor or fun games, you can help increase the learners’ COBS and ultimately enhance learning.

About Parker Grant, PhD

Parker Grant is the founder of Instructional Design Industry, an online community for learning designers, instructional designers, and many other learning professionals (new and experienced). Parker holds a PhD in Adult Learning and a MS in Educational Technology. His consulting firm, Learning Connects, continues to offer learning design and development services.

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