Let’s be honest - it can be hard to have people engage with learning content. Whether you’re sharing knowledge with a small group of employees, students or even across a whole business, the attitude towards learning seems to fall into one of two categories: 

  1. Do we have to?
  2. Fine, let’s check the ‘OK, I got it’ box and get on with our days. 

But what if your learning could be more than that? What if you could create online learning that wasn’t only enjoyable and engaging for your learners, but was also something that stayed in their mind for a really long time. 

At Savv-e we are passionate about creating learning that is both engaging and long-lasting. That’s why we consider the AGES model when creating custom digital learning courses.

AGES stands for Attention, Generation, Emotion and Spacing. Here’s what it’s all about:

Attention

Attention is necessary to allow neurons to activate and new neural connections to be formed to create deeper learning. Our brains are not created to remain attentive for extended periods of time, and as a result of this need regular periods of rest to refresh and refocus. During this period of time the brain is also working on recently formed neural connections to strengthen them.

When we have our brain pay attention to subject matter, this is when memories are formed. The absence of memory means there is no learning. There have been studies of patients with damage to their hippocampus (the section of the brain which forms memories) which show their ability to store memories is impaired. 

In short, attention matters because it’s how our brain knows what we’re trying to learn in the first place.

Generation

The second component involves how we engage with the material. Research shows we can’t just absorb information passively; we must take an active, creative role.

This stems from how the brain stores memory, as the hippocampus acts more like a web than a hard drive. The thicker and denser the web of memories, the stronger each individual memory becomes.

As learners, we help strengthen that web when we actively create — or generate — those connections. One way to do that is by relating the new material to our existing web of knowledge.

Emotion

Emotions play a two-part role when it comes to absorbing information. Firstly, they increase our attention to the topic at hand, which allows us to focus. And secondly, emotions activate a brain region called the amygdala, which seems to alert the hippocampus that the material is important and worth encoding as memory.

Ways to create insight for your learner include reflection activities, starting with a challenge and asking learners to consider how they would respond. The amygdala reacts quickly to stimulus and can trigger quick reactions before we are conscious of this process. It sends a signal to the hippocampus that this is something they need to remember. 

Spacing

We don’t store memories, we grow them and that takes time. 

Rest and reactivation is absolutely fundamental to creating lasting memories. When a learner returns from a brief moment of rest, there is a different context which also helps embed a deeper memory. This also allows learners to take advantage of sleep, which reactivates neural circuits and allows us to forget irrelevant information.

Taking shorts and regular breaks can lead to more insights and therefore more information retained by the learner. Most insights occur in the shower (who would’ve thought!) so take the time to recharge, and sit back for long and lasting memories to form.

Ultimately, the AGES Model describes a style of learning that helps people focus on the content, engage directly with it, experience positive emotions around it, and take breaks between lessons. When organizations take such an approach, research suggests they’ll maximize their teams’ learning and accelerate breakthroughs like never before.

Learn more about the AGES model by looking at this webinar with Lisa Vincent and Bronwyn Leong.

The AGES model was introduced by Lila Davachi, Tobias Kiefer, David Rock and Lisa Rock in 2010 and refined by researchers at Columbia, New York University and the NeuroLeadership Institute.