Introduction to online learning using our senses

All of us learn in a way that is unique to us, and doing online training for staff is no exception. When we introduce online learning, it needs to include areas  which trigger our senses of touch, smell, hearing and seeing.

Train your staff effectively online learning using all their senses incorporating these elements into the learning. Using more than one of our senses makes the learning process more effective and is more likely to succeed. Training staff or clients online needs to give them the feeling that they are part of a bigger community, as if they were in an actual class


People learn in different ways. Some need to move, some need quiet, and another might need to write things out a few times.  Online learning has made training and education so much more accessible, but the methods needed to retain the information so that we can apply what we have learned, means we also need to rearrange the way we take in information to make it effective We learn by using our senses, ie sight, hearing, touch, and smell.

It stands to reason that the more of these we add in from these senses the better for us to remember and recall the information. If you are doing a course online, it means there is a reason for this, so it makes sense to make the experience exciting, worthwhile and valuable.



Memories are stored in the Hippocampus of the brain, a small area the size of an almond buried deep in the brain. To get our online learning information to be embedded in the hippocampus, we need to:

  • concentrate on what is said,
  • repeat what is said,
  • understand the content.

Online learning could make this difficult, because it is faster, and might engage fewer of our senses to ‘superglue’ the content into our memories. In my experience, I find it easy to become distracted, and then when I have to recap, cannot remember or put my thoughts into words to answer the questions and apply the information.

training in person

Here are some tips to train your staff effectively online learning using all their senses:

  • Orientate yourself on the online learning system/software so that you can navigate to the correct learning areas and reduce student frustration as they work through the training material. Orientate your staff, make an orientation introduction to the learning
  • Make the content applicable
  • Encourage them to focus when working online, remove other distractions so that they can focus on what is being said and done in the online course
  • Planning – set aside time for online learning where they have good lighting, access to the material and a comfortable area to work in.
  • Create content which is engaging – being creative in the way we do online learning, makes the process a positive experience. Be practical and creative in setting assignments, quizzes and tests. These are designed to highlight the essential areas of online learning and make them practical. The assignments are not just a chore to ‘get through’. Creating a quiz and practical assignment will help train your staff effectively online learning using all their senses
  • Timing – choose a time in the day when your brain has rested and is not tired out by other online inputs. This means that you might need to reduce social media, TV, Netflix etc so that your brain is able to accept the information you are putting in it.

When we are online, a chemical called dopamine is released which is a ‘feel-good’ chemical. This means that social media makes us feel good, however, there is only so much dopamine around. Using it up makes our brains, and memories fuzzy, thus making the absorption of learning material more difficult



  • One of the most important learning tools, used especially by small children, touch seems to be forgotten when we become older. It is a highly effective and easy way to learn
  • Write out the learning on a separate paper/book
  • Find a practical example where possible to touch. If the learning is about how different types of plants have different types of roots, go and look at the difference between a grass root and a weed with a tap root.
  • Use colours when you write it out, this engages your touch and sight. The best colours to use for remembering are orange, blue, yellow and red.
  • If it is the Pythagoras theorem, go and find a right-angle triangle around you, looking at the walls in a house, a doorway or a cupboard.

Sight / visual learning

  • Read the paragraph, only a paragraph at a time. Which word stands out and represents the paragraph’s main point? This a keyword. Write out the keywords in a separate column next to the paragraph.
  • When you have a main sentence, break the sentence up and accent each noun eg The paint is wet. The PAINT is wet. The paint is WET. This helps us concentrate on the specifics and not just skim over them.
  • Watch videos on the system, or videos with related learning.
  • If you are a content creator for online learning, then add in animations and icons which follow through similar points (such as tips).


  • Ever realised that you can remember words to a song, but cannot remember what you had for breakfast? Putting content to audio, and especially relating it to music, helps us reach the deeper areas and create better links or learning.
  • Read the content out loud when possible, and even teach another person (or the dog). There are adobe programs which can read typed pdfs to you which also helps when we are reading and hearing at the same time. Be careful not to drift off however and lose concentration. Mixing audio and then writing it down is doubly effective!
  • When there is a video with audio, pause the video every now and then, after a key point and try and remember it.
  • Speak the content out loud to yourself. This helps to slow down and focus the thought process better.
  • Create a song or a rhyme to remember various concepts, remember Dr Jean’s ‘The Guacamole song’  from a while ago, or the elements of the periodic table song ?

It is a myth that we can watch/listen to other content while we learning. Our brains can only stream one lot of content at a time, and will remember the most ‘memorable’ ie exciting input.  Music without words might be effective, and could help learning, music or content with words or acting however will distract and steal the pathways which the online learning material needs to use.

I need to move while I’m learning: Some learners put ear phones in and listen while they walk. Another method is to record yourself speaking the words, and then listening to the recording as you walk around. This method is probably not going to work while you do intense exercise, only when the exercise does not take your concentration.


Remember the smell of Sulphur when the science teacher demonstrated a chemical reaction? Although one of the most powerful parts of our memory bank, the sense of smell is the least likely to be used due to practicality. It is, however, possible to attach learning to a scent ie when you are learning, make sure the area is clean and has a pleasant smell e.g. if you enjoy the smell of lilies/roses, then use this as a cream/soap while you are learning. It makes for a positive experience enabling us to engage more, be positive about content and remember better.


If you are learning about eg cleaning products wound care, and the degeneration of matter, a potent smell, such as vinegar or antiseptic might help. What have you found effective to make online learning work for you?

In summary, to train your staff effectively online learning using all their senses, we need to incorporate multiple elements and senses into the learning. Each of us has our own way of learning, and although online learning might seem daunting, online learning can be creative and effective.


Original content
Article Author: Zelide Harris