E-learning design for social emotions

After spending so much time investigating the positive aspects of learning through social media, I wanted to start looking at the possible negative aspects. Here’s one thats’ possibly problematic:

Our ability to show admiration and compassion may be declining due to our fast-paced digital culture.

Neural correlates of admiration and compassion is a study that explores the social emotions that define humanity – admiration and compassion. Brain scans show it takes longer to respond to admiration and compassion than to respond to signs of something like physical pain. There is greater cognitive processing involved in feeling compassion.

Does our fast-paced media culture (fueled by social media) mean we are becoming indifferent to the emotions of human suffering? Is it redefining our humanity? For instance, we flock to YouTube over and over again to view the death of a luger at the Olympics and say OMG! and then share that on Twitter so someone else can ‘re-tweet it’ and say OMG! and repeat it to the point that it spreads like a cancer. Or it ‘trends’. But are we ‘there’ long enough – in the moment – to display compassion? Do we allow enough time?

In the study, the researchers say:

The rapidity and parallel processing of attention requiring information, which hallmark the digital age, might reduce the frequency of full experience of such emotions, with potentially negative consequences.

This made me think of a highly emotional e-learning course about palliative care. (You can see a marketing demo of this course if you register.)

The course elicits strong emotions. In the demo you get an idea of it but I actually ran through the  course and it made me cry. E-learning that made me cry (for the right reasons).

Feeling emotions was something I previously would have said “no, that’s probably not good for self-paced e-learning.”

I think this course allows time to process feelings. The course guides the learner to assess situations on their own using various resources like charts, glossaries, video, etc. Learners don’t just pull out a mobile device and watch a video or YouTube clip of a suffering patient  and then go into the room to provide care (and there’s a process to that care).

So I guess what I’m saying here is that content that needs to tap compassion may need to be designed without rapid digital exchanges common to social media. I’m not stating fact. I’m putting it out there for consideration based on this one study.

Our ability to show admiration and compassion may be declining when it comes to rapid digital exchanges.

Don’t rule out e-learning for emotional content. Just allow time for a learner to respond.

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