3 New Factors to Consider in Designing Learning Environments


The Personal Learning Environment

Can the environment you’re learning in effect your learning? There is a lot of science out there claiming it makes a big difference. Granted, most of the research is based on K-12 students. But as training professionals do we take advantage of this knowledge? Should we include a best odors, sounds, and imagery section to instructor’s guides? How about colors and fashion? Could what an instructor is wearing be as important as well crafted assessments? All of these questions may have you chuckling, or rolling your eyes, but if the science is legit why ignore any factor that could improve learning?


Since industries are good at creating new words for their communities, I’d like to propose smellearning. The science tells us that smell has a powerful impact on memory and recall. Wouldn’t we want to take advantage of that in our designs of instruction? Since I’ve not seen much of it in adult learning theories, I’ll assume no. But let’s just pretend the answer is yes. What would that look like?

For me electro-mechanical smells trigger all sorts of memories that have proven useful in troubleshooting problems. I grew up in a family with lots of old Volkswagens and you could learn a lot about how those cars were running by their smell. I’ve also heard a lot about realtors baking fresh cookies in the homes they are trying to sell. They want the experience of walking around the house to feel like you’re walking around your own “home”. They want you to feel good.


Music can create all sorts of feelings. Do you have music playing while you work or study? According to Accelerated Learning’s research, slow Baroque music increases concentration. The Barzak Institute also uses slow and fast Baroque era music to hold attention. What? Who knew? Get to iTunes and find your favorite Baroque jams when you’re having trouble concentrating. And maybe you could have it playing quietly in the background of your classroom experiences as well.


What’s you’re favorite color? What color best stimulates the brain for learning? Mistupid.com has some simple explanations about color. And according to the site, Orange has the characterize halfway between red and yellow making it an ideal color for optimizing learning. It’s not my favorite color, but I’ll certainly think about it the next time I’m planning a learning environment. The site also says that for optimal learning choose yellow, light orange, beige, or off-white. Choose your colors wisely because some will also influence aggressive behavior.

I don’t know how legit the science is around any of this, but that’s not the point of this post. My point is that there are a lot of people thinking about many many different elements that can/might influence learning. It would be unwise attempting to apply them all at once, but just knowing about them is a great place to start.

And what we do know is that impacting our learners emotionally has a significant positive effect on memory. And all three of these stimuli impact emotions. The most interesting part is that the emotion does not need to be positive for the effect to work. Being scared, angry, sad, is equally impactful as positive happy feelings. But of course it all depends on what you’re objective is during the instruction and the outcome you are hoping to achieve.

I’m no expert on this but I find it fascinating. Let me know what color, music, or smell impacts you the most. Have you ever purposely used them in your instructional designs?