The Principles of Learning and How You Can Adapt Them to E Learning

The Principles of Learning and How You Can Adapt Them to E-Learning

Damian Hehire-learning

The Principles of Learning and How You Can Adapt Them to E-Learning

The Principles of Learning describe the factors and situations that facilitate learning and help people retain information. There are six principles:

  1. Readiness
  2. Exercise
  3. Effect
  4. Primacy
  5. Recency
  6. Intensity

Let’s look at each as well as how you can use them when developing an e-learning course.


This principle applies to whether or not a learner is ready to learn. When they are not, learners find it difficult to retain information. When learners are ready to learn, on the other hand, knowledge retention improves.

The readiness principle can be a tricky one to overcome. After all, how can you make reluctant learners willing and ready? There are some techniques you can use, however. They include:

  • Making e-learning courses available on any device so learners can go through them at a time that suits them. This can be much more beneficial than having more structured learning content where the learner must be in a specific location at a specified time
  • Adopting a just in time learning strategy also helps. This involves creating a library of e-learning courses and modules, making them available to learners when they need them. Learners then complete your courses when they are highly motivated to do so.
  • You can also make learners ready to learn by ensuring they know why the content of the course is relevant to them. This involves relating the content of the course to their day-to-day experience and clearly explaining how the learner will individually benefit.


The basis of this principle is that learners retain knowledge when they practice what they learn. Going further, the more they practice, the more they remember.

E-learning courses are better than just about any other learning strategy when it comes to this principle. This is because it is easy to add elements that give learners the opportunity to practice. The best example is scenarios which put learners in a situation where they must make decisions based on what they have learned.

Quizzes in your e-learning courses can help people practice what they’ve learned too.


This Principle of Learning states that people learn better when learning makes them feel satisfied and gives them pleasure.

Here are some ideas to help your e-learning courses make the most of this learning principle:

  • Badges and rewards – learners will strive to get the badges and rewards you offer, plus they will have a better learning experience.
  • Feedback – providing feedback to learners can also improve their levels of satisfaction with the course. If their progress is acceptable, the learner should also feel pleasure as a result of the feedback you give them.
  • Social sharing – adding social sharing functionality to your e-learning courses can help too, as learners will get praise and encouragement from their friends, family, and colleagues.


This learning principle states the things that learners learn first are more likely to be retained.

Here’s how you can use the learning principle primacy to your advantage:

  • Organising the content of your e-learning course to ensure you cover the most important topics first.
  • Ensuring all the content of your e-learning course follows a logical order.
  • Making sure the learner grasps a topic before moving onto something new. You can do this with quizzes and other testing tools.


This principle says people retain the information they most recently learned. So, following on from the last point, the information that people most commonly retain is the information they learn at the start of your e-learning course and the information they learn at the end.

You need to take steps to ensure they also retain the information from modules in the middle.

One of the best ways to achieve this is to add content summaries or reviews at the end of sections. Learners should then be given the opportunity to go back over the content they covered earlier in the section but which they have now forgotten.


When the learning experience is boring, people struggle to retain information. The opposite is true when the learning experience is intense.

Examples of intensity in learning include learning experiences that are interesting, fun, and exciting. When your e-learning courses have these characteristics, learners are much more likely to retain the information they learn.

Elements you can add to your e-learning courses to enhance their intensity include:

  • Gamification elements
  • Media including video and images
  • Making the course content relevant – using scenarios

Crucial to this point is making your e-learning courses engaging while also encouraging people to actively learn. This will ensure your courses are fun, interesting, and exciting.

There’s Science Involved When Creating Effective E-Learning Courses

As you can see from the above, none of the principles are difficult to understand, nor are they surprising. Making the most of them in your e-learning courses, however, requires instructional design knowledge and experience.

When your e-learning courses do make the most of the Principles of Learning, however, you will improve the results you achieve as well as the return on investment you get from your training budget.