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Emotional responses for more memorable experiences

The role emotion can play in memory is well-established in psychology. Your brain needs to decide what events carry more importance and make more of an effort to commit those to your long-term memory. And emotions are one of the easiest and most effective ways of knowing whether something is important or not.

It’s also true that you’re more likely to remember something if you find yourself in the same state of emotion as you were when it happened. So, if you were angry when you threw your keys across the room in a huff, you’re more likely to remember where they went if you get angry again.

But what does this mean for us when creating elearning? How can we generate the emotion required for learning to be memorable, while ensuring that it’s not too emotionally taxing on the learner?


The first key to emotion is understanding. If a learner doesn’t feel that a module they’re taking is relevant to them, you’re going to be hard pressed to generate any sort of reaction whatsoever.

Take our off-the-shelf module on copyright, as an example. One of the biggest challenges we found when creating it was how to make it feel relevant to most of our learners. That’s why we used examples, such as presentations, promotional images and social media content, to show that it isn’t just millionaire songwriters who need to worry about breaking the rules of copyright.

The shock factor

You don’t want to go overboard with throwing shocking facts and figures at your learners. But, something to hammer home the importance of a piece of learning can really help how much a learner retains.

Take our introductory module to mental health, for example. One such stat is that around one in five people in England have experienced suicidal thoughts. It’s certainly a shocking figure, and it’s there to show how important the issue of mental health is in today’s society. Once you establish the importance of a topic, getting a learner to buy in becomes a much simpler task.

Activities keep it real

Active learning plays a major role in generating emotional responses in your learners. A good activity can trigger an emotional response. Whether it’s the joy and satisfaction of figuring out the answer to a scenario question, or the surprise when what you thought wasn’t quite the right solution. And through all this, it’s important for activities to feel fresh and engaging. If they’re similar to something a learner has seen before, it’s a lot harder to get excited (and as such, harder to get invested).

The learner journey

At the centre of all this is the ‘journey’ from uninformed to informed, which each learner takes as they go through a module. As cheesy as this sounds, it’s one of the most important parts of a piece of elearning. Keeping things simple and easy to follow means that a learner can focus their attention, energy, and – most importantly –  emotion on mastering the content at hand.

So, keep it relevant, keep it simple, use your information and stats wisely and make your activities thought-provoking. Because the better you are at generating emotional responses, the more memorable your learning experiences will be.

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