Reducing cognitive load means reducing the mental effort required to do something. Making designs easy to use and understand is part of the solution. Whether it’s digital information or walking the street, we can all do with some help by reducing cognitive load so we can process the important messages.
Jon Yablonski developed seven design principles for reducing cognitive load in relation to user interfaces in the digital world. But these are useful tips for other fields of design. The seven principles make a lot of sense and are explained simply. The principles are:
- Avoid unnecessary elements: less is more
- Leverage common design patterns: keep things familiar
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks: make it easy to stay focused
- Minimize choices for easy decision making
- Display choices as a group: to help with decisions
- Strive for readability: make it legible
- Use iconography with caution: they aren’t always intuitive
Yablonski’s website explains further the concept of cognitive load. Every time you visit a website or a new environment your brain has learn something new. You have to do two things at once – focus on learning how to get around and at the same time, remember why you are there. The mental effort required is called cognitive load. If you get more information than you can handle, the brain slows down. We can’t avoid cognitive load, but designers can help minimise it.
Academic Coaching for Post Secondary Students
Would academic coaching help post secondary students with disabilities achieve their education goals? That was the question for a pilot study. Not surprisingly, the coaching helped. Improved self esteem and confidence helped the students achieve degrees in STEM subjects. The key component of academic coaching for students was helping students with their executive functioning.
The title of the article is, Academic Coaching: Outcomes from a Pilot Group of Postsecondary STEM Students with Disabilities.
Abstract: Faced with poor retention and graduation rates for students with disabilities, postsecondary institutions have experimented with interventions to help students succeed in college. This practice brief describes a pilot initiative in which 41 students with disabilities pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees at three postsecondary institutions engaged in weekly academic coaching sessions primarily aimed at improving students’ executive functioning.
Data collected through an online survey of participants at the end of the initiative suggests that the academic coaching services increased their self-confidence, motivation, and determination to succeed. Participants reported that they gained skills in time management, studying, note taking, organization, prioritization, writing, self-advocacy, and stress management as a result of the academic coaching. Although literature regarding academic coaching and students with disabilities has often focused on students with LD or ADHD, results of the pilot initiative suggest that students with a variety of disabilities can benefit from coaching relationships.