Yesterday, Dr. Art Kohn opened up day two our LEAP Ahead conference with an engaging keynote about the science of learning and behavior change, sharing his tips for ways to guarantee people get more from your training program.

The keynote focused on the challenge of eliciting behavior change, rather than just getting students to learn. Art first taught us a little bit about how memory works, which is helpful information for creating more effective training materials.


  1. Memory is constructive. We may think our memories are a perfect representation of the past, but that’s not the case. Our brains actually invent memories in creative ways, resulting in a constructive reality. Art demonstrated this point by reciting a list of words, then asking people to write down the words they remembered. Over half of the participants wrote down the word “light,” even though he never said it, because it was associated with other words on the list.
  2. Memory limits can be expanded. The common belief is that people can remember seven items on a list, plus or minus two. Well, Art doesn’t agree (he actually used the word “baloney!”)  According to Art, when you enrich the context of the list for your learners, they can actually remember much, much more.
  3. Memory can be unlimited. While the term “unlimited” may be an exaggeration, what he means is that essentially, your brain is never going to fill up. As long as information is delivered in a meaningful way that your learners can relate to, they’ll be able to keep learning.
  4. Context increases memory. Providing relevant context along with new information for your learners ensures it isn’t completely foreign. This allows them to link to their existing knowledge and better retain the materials.

Once you understand how memory works, it’s easier to create more effective content that will stick for your training program.

Art also discussed the importance of making an elearning course feel less like a solo task and having your learners feel immersed in an experience. By having subject matter experts (SMEs) host courses, including social learning tools and continually updating courses, learners will be more engaged and, in turn, will learn more.

Art earned his Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from Duke University and now teaches at both the business school and the department of psychology at Portland State University, among other projects. He’s also the author of the book “Communicating with Psychology”.

We wrapped up the conference with more engaging sessions on content development, training program management, LMS administration, and lots of networking opportunities.

It’s hard to believe the LEAP Ahead conference is already over, but we’re looking forward to our next event. Tell us in the comments, what elearning topics would you be most interested in?



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