How the Environment Plays a Role in Learning
American Public University
How the Environment Plays a Role in Learning
The brain, often referred to as a sponge because of its uncanny ability to absorb almost anything, is a highly adaptable and complex component of the human body. However, under special circumstances, the ability to absorb information is challenged based on physical environments, virtual environments, age factors, and personal factors. Although the people coexisting in this world are alike, yet completely different in cerebral aspects, the basic principles of how the environment affects the ability to learn remain surprisingly consistent. A physical environment can have a huge impact on cognitive function. For example, architectural layout and interior design can both help or hinder an individual’s ability to retain information. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or simply OECD, states that classes in which the seats face East or West could be more distracted because of sun position, and that outdated educational settings, such as those with poor lighting or heating, could be disadvantageous to the learning environment (OECD, 2009). Proximity can also present a negative or positive impact in an educational atmosphere. Crowded classrooms can lead to feelings of suffocation and frustration, while smaller class sizes tend to have better focus, greater academic success, and improved understand of subjective concepts (OECD, 2009). In addition, the energy, or mood, of the environment can also aid the learner. Gentle blue or green paint, paired with warm lighting can relax the person, whereas red or yellow paints paired with standard halogen bulbs can cause interruptions in cognitive learning patterns (OECD, 2009). With today’s technological advances, it isn’t any surprise that brick and mortar institutions are now offering online undergraduate and graduate programs to compete with the plethora of online colleges offering degrees to students in the convenience of their homes. Many students of all ages are taking advantage of the virtual learning environment because of its accessibility. Most online institutions allow students to complete required coursework and reading on their own time, as opposed to being obligated to show up on certain days, at various hours. This exact concept empowers the student, and allows them to demonstrate self-discipline, while at the same time being able to control every aspect of their education in their own way. Another important factor in the virtual learning environment is the GUI, or Graphical User Interface. Essentially, the GUI is the entire virtual design of the environment, from aesthetics, right down to the technical capabilities of the site, i.e. navigation, user friendliness, etc. Ken Graetz, director of e-learning at Winona State University, created a popular model for usable virtual systems which identifies five key components: Learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors, and satisfaction (Graetz, 2006). As soon as these five components are addressed and mastered, the success of the virtual environment is assuredly guaranteed (Graetz, 2006). Bear in mind that professionality of the content also plays a vital role in keeping students focused and intrigued in the information. Silly .gif files, juvenile emoticons, and atypical fonts can be a distraction to the general target audience. Age can also play a dynamic role in the way environments affect our ability to acquire data. Children, for example, require different noise, comfort, and aesthetical structure than adults or seniors. The amount of stimuli needed to engage children in activities, as well as the vast amount of nurturement needed to make them feel fulfilled is starkly dissimilar to that of adults, but closely similar to seniors in living facilities (Kopko, n.d.). Children also require fitting furniture in their learning environments, bright...
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