It is a known fact that when we actively engage in a “live” situation, we are more likely to retain information. The human brain is constantly building neural connections while pruning away less-used ones, and digital media use plays an active role in that process.
This implores the question of how will the learning process change with the current developments expecting that the majority of learning is provided by means of an online platform.
With the introduction of online learning, the process on how data is cognitively accrued, preserved and understood, may change to a large extent.
Online learning not only introduces a new way of learning but also presents its own set of challenges. Studies into the cognitive learning process towards online learning is still in a development phase and it is imperative to consider cognitive functioning when developing online learning programs.
Pertaining to cognitive learning, in specific, memory, the challenges are numerous.
The consequences of excessive screen time, may directly affect academic performance in children, adolescents, and young adults.
The impacts of excessive screen time on neurodevelopment may have lasting effects on those reaching adulthood. A study investigating the use of electronic devices in post-secondary education found that students in classrooms where electronic devices were prohibited scored significantly higher on both unit and final exams. (Neophytou, et al., 2019)
The lasting consequences on learning, memory, and language in the use of technology may lead to early symptoms of cognitive decline, compared to previous generations according to research. (Neophytou, et al., 2019). Online learning will most certainly increase screen time. Increased exposure may contribute over time to the shrinkage or loss of tissue volume, affecting areas in the frontal lobe which governs executive functioning, which is an important factor in the cognitive learning process. Imaging studies confirmed that the processing of information becomes less efficient and can thus be associated with poor task performance.
Learning changes the physical structure of the brain through the process of continuous interactions between the learner and environment.
Cognitive learning is centered on the mental processes by which the learner takes in, interprets, stores and retrieves information. It can be described as knowledge acquisition which is a mental activity involving internal coding and structuring by the learner and suggests that learning happens best under conditions that are aligned with human cognitive architecture. The question which still remains is whether the architecture is designed to participate effectively in an online learning process and whether this will call for a new approach in cognitive development and the lasting effect of online exposure.
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Yilmaz, K., 2011. The cognitive perspective on learning: its theoretical underpinnings and implications for classroom practices. The clearing house, Volume 84, p. 212.