Cognitive Load Theory
This page explores cognitive architecture and how learning is impacted by cognitive load and how business simulation design impacts and needs to take into account cognitive load.
My extensive experience actually using business simulations on company training means that I have observed and managed the impact of cognitive load on learning and my designs take into account cognitive load. Taking cognitive load into account when designing a business simulation is vital for effective and efficient learning.
Effective as this means that learners are not confused or overloaded. And, efficient as it means that the maximum learning takes place in the time available. As demonstrated by my award winning empirical research, at some point, there is a conflict between effectiveness and efficiency. It is the point where increasing cognitive load and hence perceived efficiency increases causes cognitive overload and hence reduces effectiveness.
The human cognitive architecture can be seen as consisting of two parts – working memory where learning is processed and long-term memory where learning is embedded.
As expanded on below, there are three types of cognitive load - intrinsic, extraneous and germane. Where, for simulations intrinsic and extraneous cognitive load can be seen as the load associated with active experimentation and concrete experience. Where germane cognitive load can be seen as the capacity available for reflection and concept formulation. Where extraneous load is time spent on irrelevant learning.
An understanding of cognitive load is key to deciding what to include in the simulation and the amount of time required for learning to be ensured. Specifically applying this understanding when designing and choosing a simulation impacts the effectiveness, efficiency and relevance of learning. My focus on matching simulation to learning purpose, lean design and learning process ensures this.
A core aspect of my Systems Dynamic model  is workload and ensuring that throughout the simulation is neither too high or too low - as if it is too high no learning takes place and if too low time is being wasted. Further information about design for process can be downloaded here. My award winning empirical research  shows that simulation complexity is highly correlated with duration and since then we have invented ways of shortening duration and thus allow more learning to be packed in to the time available.
Besides process aspects, there is the question of design style - in particular is this graphic rich or decision & result rich. I design my business simulations emphasising the links between decisions and results because unraveling these is crucial to business learning and ensures that the germane cognitive load focuses on business learning. (I see over indulgence on graphics as possibly causing an unacceptable level of extraneous cognitive load and hence reduce learning efficiency and effectiveness.
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 Driscol, M. P. (2005) Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.) Pearson, Boston
 Sweller, J. (1993) Some cognitive processes and their consequences in the organisation and presentation of information, Australian Journal of Psychology, 45(1) 1-8
 Sweller, J., (1994) Cognitive load theory, learning difficulty and instructional design Learning and Instruction, 4, 295-312
 Chandler, P. & J. Sweller (1991) Cognitive load theory and the format of instruction Cognition and Instruction, 8(4), 293-332
 Sweller, J., J. van Merrienboer and F. Pass (1998) Cognitive architecture and instructional design Educational Psychological Review 10, 251-296
 Hall, Jeremy and Benita Cox (1993) Computerised Management Games: the feedback process and servo-mechanism analogy, Simulation & Gaming Yearbook 1993 eds Fred Percival and Danny Saunders, Kogan Page London
 Hall, Jeremy J. S. B. and Benita M Cox (1994) Complexity is it really that simple, Systems Developments in Business Simulations and Experiential Exercises Volume 21 eds. Precha Thavikulwat & John D. Overby, College of Business Administration, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma
Most recent update: 10/10/13
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