Brain research guides online classroom design

Michelle Miller

With online enrollment on the rise and more teachers incorporating digital technology in traditional classrooms, Professor Michelle Miller’s research offers practical ideas for instructors.

The latest brain research can be used to design online information for better learning outcomes, said Miller. “For example, understanding attention drives a great deal of what we think and how we prioritize in the moment.”

Miller’s applied memory research uncovered methods for improving online learning; the testing effect improves comprehension with frequent low-stake tests. Other processes shown to improve retention include spacing, which is splitting up study time across more sessions, and interweaving or alternating between topics.

Motivating students is another focus of Miller’s research. “How do we get the students to turn on the computer and go to class instead of Facebook?” Miller said course design improves student motivation in online classes, along with careful creation of assignments to increase student’s self-efficacy.

Miller’s findings are the topic of Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology, scheduled for release in October. “The book isn’t so much a narrowly focused how-to guide as it is a conceptual framework for making instructional design choices that reflect the ways in which the mind takes in and structures information.” Miller includes a chapter on how computing and mobile technology affect us psychologically.