elearning content

Should seductive details be used in elearning content? Yay or Nay  

The companies are now experimenting with so much change in technology adaptations in learning and development. Elearning is one of them.

But how to make sure that your eLearning content does not end up wasting up the time of the target audience or they find it too humourous because the content has not been formulated with the proper research and hard work.

Now, when does that happen? The eLearning aims to ensure that the learners are engaged to the tee. Hence seductive details are included in a course, such as GIFs, images, and music, which are not related to the learning objectives but to make the course entertaining. They are added to a course to get the audience’s attention. There are many seductive details like: 

  • GIF images to ensure that the learners understand the situation involving a character.
  • Fun facts to make sure learners don’t get bored with all the details  
  • Providing background information about somebody to set the tempo 

Seductive details are added in an eLearning course to make it enjoyable, but sometimes they steal the limelight or ruin all efforts. It’s because an image makes the audience feel shocked because it has been added for that effect. Or the background music takes the learners’ attention away from the course. 

So how to ensure that the delightful aspects of the course continue to stay but don’t push the audience away from the course. 

What is the seductive details effect?

The instructional designer has to understand that sometimes such elements drag the course. So, the instructional designers must follow these principles to ensure that such elements are added, but they don’t overdo it.

Research has shown that such content in the course leads to poorer recall later. This is because the learners’ working memory gets clogged up with such content, and they can’t bring to mind the essential details when needed. When learners’ minds are supplied with so many details, they can’t process the vital information in such eLearning content. So, when seductive details, aka the junk, occupy the working memory, it does not reach the long-term memory, and hence a learner learns nothing worthwhile from the course except some amusing GIFs.

Working memory has a limited storage capacity, and when too much is fed into it, it does not pass to the long-term memory, which has an unlimited capacity preventing recall later. 

The lack of recall of important content is known as the seductive details effect. It is because such extra elements or seductive details occupy our working memory and affect the evocation of information.

It’s because the working memory holds information for a brief time and is crucial for making decisions by working on stored information (long-term memory) in the brain. It’s because our brain can only work on a short amount of memory at a time. Due to seductive details in content, nothing vital gets passed from working memory(WM) to long-term memory(LTM), and nothing useful gets transferred later from LTM to WM.

Why does it happen?

The learners have a way to organize information in their minds to be remembered later. It is done through schemas but when irrelevant details are included in such content, the learners can’t form proper mental schemas. So, although funny content in the eLearning modules might increase engagement, it can hamper retention.

Does the seductive details effect happen with everyone? 

Working memory levels 

 But the effects varied between people with different working memory levels. People who have high working memory are not affected by the seductive details effect. Such individuals don’t look much at such elements, as shown in an experiment by Sanchez and Wiley where eye-tracking was done. People with low working memory capacity don’t have good reading abilities; hence their attention is often captured by the seductive details rather than the text. It is also better to include seductive details when a lesson is about to finish because studies have indicated that they have the least effects. A study done in 1998 by Harp and Mayer had shown that when such details were added at the end of a chapter, a learner’s performance was not much different to the one who has was given a chapter with no such details. 

Cognitive load 

The use of seductive details in reducing the recall also varies with the cognitive load level of the eLearning content. For example, in 2011, a study done by Park proved that when students were given low cognitive load biology content with seductive details, they performed better than without it. Cognitive load means the working memory resources used during a course. This depends on the intrinsic load, which implies the intricacy of the material like rocket science has a high cognitive load than accountancy. In such conditions, the use of seductive details increased students’ motivation levels. But the same is not true for high cognitive load conditions where the inclusion of seductive details proved to prohibit recall. 

How to prevent this effect?

Decide on the learning outcomes.

Hence the eLearning companies must ensure that the instructional designers develop learning outcomes. These are goals the learners are supposed to learn from the eLearning content. These learning outcomes must be designed as per the audience’s personality to see what they are lacking and how eLearning can help them gain it. 

When the instructional designers have an idea about the educational levels of learners, it helps them design the eLearning content in a proper language understandable for the latter. 

Conduct the content audit 

When you have such a learning outcome in your hand, you can include the content with caution. If any content does not help the learners attain their outcomes, it better not be included. So, any irrelevant content(seductive details) which does not pass this test can be excluded. It is also better, that someone other than the instructional designers is used for conducting this content audit to have a neutral opinion. They won’t be biased towards the content because they have created it. So, all the useless GIFs can be discarded. 

The instructional designers should not completely refrain from using ludicrous content in the course. It does engage learners, but they must not use too much. It’s because humans have a natural propensity to learn new things. So, even if your content does not have memes, the learners will still complete it. You can include storytelling in your course, but it should provide instruction. Also, make sure that you include awe-inspiring pictures pertinent to the course content. 

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