This post was originally published on lessonly.com.
The word “peanut” by itself has a lot of meaning on its own, but it opens up a whole different set of topics when you make it “peanut butter” or “peanut butter and jelly” or “peanut butter and chocolate.” That’s because we added context to the original word, something our brains do millions of times every day. It’s incredibly important to how we learn.
Contextual learning deepens and strengthens our knowledge on a certain subject, but can be incredibly difficult to achieve through online courses and web-based learning platforms. For those searching the LMS market for a sufficient digital learning solution, let’s explore why contextual learning makes a learning management system that much better.
What exactly is contextual learning?
Merriam-Webster defines context as “the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning.” The same definition can be expanded to contextual learning—the ideas or themes surrounding a central subject throw light on its meaning. For example, teachers don’t often have students read Romeo & Juliet and call it a day. Adding in lessons about Shakespeare and playwriting in the 1500s can make the central text about star-crossed lovers mean a lot more because it’s being placed in context. When looking at the science of learning, these kinds of contextual lessons help the brain to deepen the pathways that help us remember things and create knowledge that sticks with learners for a long time.
Why is contextual learning hard for web-based platforms?
The biggest hurdle for contextual learning in a learning management system (LMS) is the digital learning at its core. Context has never been the internet’s best strength. Sure, hyperlinks are useful for sourcing definitions and further reading, but clicking a hyperlink still causes you to leave your online courses to travel to the source page, where you read that information before returning and getting back into the mood to learn. This method is cumbersome and because of the nature of online learning, where there often isn’t a teacher to help make connections, it leaves context unexplained.
Many web-based online platforms rely on internal hyperlinks to provide their contextual learning, or even worse, include all their links in footnotes or in appendices at the end of lessons. Without the proximity to the central idea, context loses its importance and fails to become blended learning—because the learner’s mind isn’t making the mental connections between the two thoughts. This issue is one that still plagues a lot of open-source learning management system software today, and it’s a major reason so many organizations are looking into enterprise LMS platforms to better handle their employees’ learning experiences.
What does good contextual learning look like?
In recent years there have been efforts to build online courses and learning platforms which encourage contextual learning to improve the quality of online learning content. What you’ll generally see from these options is course content that interacts with the learners and adapts to how they are doing within their lessons. The most advanced learning management system will be able to identify the questions learners are struggling with to find areas of focus. This is the digital learning equivalent of a teacher assigning a student extra credit to help catch up in a particularly hard subject in school.
Cloud-based platforms are also integrating more content media into their blended learning styles. No longer are users forced to read through huge blocks of text, or watch hours of videos without any interaction in their learning courses. Web-based learning platforms are being developed with interactive elements to stimulate learners—while adding the necessary context to the information to ensure that knowledge really sticks. Over the past few years, it’s become standard practice to encourage people to stand up after long hours of sitting at their desks; the same can be said for contextual learning. Make sure learners never spend too long with one type of content.
Lessonly by Seismic is built on contextual learning
Contextual learning is one of the principles Lessonly was built on. With features including Learning Paths (which allow administrators to build contextual lesson paths that encourage deep understanding and growth) and a Chrome Extension (which serves us helpful lessons right when employees need it most), contextual, real-time learning has never been easier. Get a demo to learn more.