ELC 055: What You Need to Know About Cognitive Load

What you need to know about cognitive load

If you are a learning professional or if you think of yourself as a product designer, one of the most important aspects of your work is understanding how people learn. Yet, many of us in the field lack a basic understanding of the key theories that explain human cognitive architecture and how to best leverage it for learning. It’s up to us to learn about it, spread the word and advocate for learners. That’s why I couldn’t be more excited to present a conversation I had with John Sweller, PhD, the person who developed cognitive load theory.

John Sweller is an Emeritus Professor in the school of Education at the University of South Wales Sydney. He is an educational psychologist, best known for formulating cognitive load theory, which uses our knowledge of evolutionary psychology and human cognitive architecture as a basis for instructional design. Cognitive load theory is one of the most highly cited educational psychology theories.


  1. Characteristics of working memory and long-term memory
  2. Importance of tying novel information to previously learned information
  3. What causes cognitive load
  4. Cognitive load considerations in user interface and visual design
  5. Examples of taxing cognitive resources in instruction: redundancy effect, split attention effect, transient information effect
  6. Intrinsic and extrinsic cognitive load
  7. Isolating elements as an instructional strategy
  8. Why guided instruction is superior for novices learning difficult material

TRANSCRIPT: Download the ELC 055 Transcript

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TIME: 37 minutes


You may need access to an academic library to read many of Sweller’s publications.

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APT Virtual Classroom Translations | Source: ELC 055: What You Need to Know About Cognitive Load