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What about the emotional element important for (virtual) learning?

written by Yasmin Kranewitter

Emotions are integral to learning processes, as they can either enhance or interfere with our ability to acquire and retain knowledge. Furthermore, emotions are often contagious, impacting both learners and educators. Understanding the role of emotions in teaching and learning will help designers of learning processes create more effective and engaging learning experiences.

This blog article sums up the main points from a LinkedIn Live talk about the emotional element in (virtual) learning with Clark Quinn (Expert in Learning Experience Design Strategy) and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (Founder of #virtualspacehero).


Clark Quinn is known for applying evidence-based practices from the cognitive & learning sciences about how people think, work, and learn for organizational performance improvement. 


His specialties are consulting, workshops, keynotes, writing…seven books (so far ;)! 

He is constantly Learning ‘out loud’ at and helping orgs through Promoting evidence-based L&D through the Learning & Development Accelerator and serving as Chief Learning Strategist for Upside Learning.

❓ What are common myths and misconceptions when it comes to learning?

The process of learning is often associated with two extreme views – firstly, the belief that learning should be completely serious and without enjoyable elements, and on the other hand the belief that learning should be purely entertaining. Both of these views are misguided. Learning should strike a balance between seriousness and fun—a concept known as “hard fun.” By including the right level of challenge, learning becomes engaging and fosters growth.

What is the emotional hook in learning and why do we need to consider it?

The emotional hook in learning refers to the emphasis placed on the importance of acquiring knowledge. Learning designers must create motivations beforehand, such as by making announcements intriguing and showcasing the relevance of the learning material. By fostering curiosity and capturing learners’ attention, the emotional hook creates engagement and commitment to the learning journey.

How can we as learning designers use emotions strategically in our learning design?

Emotions play a profound role in shaping our cognitive processes, including perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem-solving. When it comes to designing effective learning experiences, understanding how emotions influence these cognitive processes becomes essential. By using the power of emotions, learning designers can optimize the impact of learning on individuals when considering the following aspects:

➡️ A crucial factor of incorporating emotions into learning design is creating a context that makes the learning experience relevant and meaningful. When learners can connect the new knowledge or skills to their real-life situations, they are more likely to engage with the material and retain what they have learned. Emotions such as curiosity and a desire for self-improvement can motivate learners to actively seek knowledge and engage in the learning process. By establishing clear connections between the learning content and its practical relevance, and therefore providing the emotional hook, designers of learning processes can evoke curiosity and interest within learners, making their experience more compelling and memorable.

➡️ Moreover, the right level of challenge is essential for engagement in the learning process. If the material is too easy, learners may become disinterested or bored, leading to limited attention and retention. Conversely, if the material is overly complex or overwhelming, learners may experience frustration or anxiety, hindering their ability to process information effectively. By carefully assessing the learners’ abilities and adapting challenges in the learning process appropriately, educators can achieve a balance that stimulates emotions of curiosity, engagement, and determination, fostering optimal learning outcomes.

➡️ Creating a psychologically safe environment is another critical aspect of considering emotions for learning. When learners feel safe to express their thoughts, ask questions, and make attempts without fear of judgment, they are more likely to engage actively and explore new ideas. Educators can foster psychological safety by establishing clear guidelines for respectful communication, encouraging collaboration and open dialogue, and valuing diverse perspectives. Emotions such as trust, comfort, and a sense of belonging can then emerge, creating an environment where learning and growth can take place

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What role do emotions play before, during and after a training program? 

Emotions play a vital role in shaping the learning experience before, during, and after a training program, influencing everything from information retention to the practical application of knowledge. From the perspective of a facilitator or trainer, it’s essential to understand and take into account the emotional landscape of the learners throughout the educational journey, as these feelings can dramatically impact the effectiveness of the training program.

Before the training program begins, one of the primary objectives of the learning designers should be to spark interest and generate motivation. This emotional engagement is key to predisposing participants to absorb new knowledge and skillsets. Facilitators can arouse curiosity by presenting the material in an intriguing, compelling, and relatable manner, thereby instilling a sense of anticipation and eagerness to learn. This might involve explaining the practical relevance of the training or sharing inspiring stories related to the training content. Providing clear learning objectives and outlining potential benefits can further bolster the learner’s motivation while addressing possible anxieties and concerns can create a more comfortable and welcoming learning environment.

During the training program, the facilitator’s role evolves to maintain engagement and ensure emotional involvement. Regular activities like polls, group activities, and interactive discussions can be introduced to keep the learners’ interest alive. These techniques not only make the learning process more enjoyable but also foster a sense of participation and collaboration. Incorporating different types of stimuli and considering various learning styles can also cater to a broader range of emotional responses and personal preferences, thereby enhancing overall engagement and knowledge retention. Furthermore, maintaining a supportive and emotionally safe environment is crucial to encourage risk-taking, open dialogue, and creativity. Facilitators should also be aware of and responsive to the learners’ emotional states, adjusting their approach and content delivery accordingly to sustain positive emotions and mitigate negative ones.

However, the role of emotions does not end with the completion of the training program; they continue to play an integral part in how knowledge is integrated into daily life and applied in real-world contexts. After the training, it’s crucial to inspire confidence in learners, making them feel capable of implementing what they’ve learned. By encouraging reflection and providing constructive feedback, facilitators can foster a sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy. Providing opportunities for continued learning and growth within a supportive community can further consolidate the emotional gains from the training, fostering an enduring enthusiasm for lifelong learning.


At this stage, it’s also essential to offer reminders and collectively created takeaways, which not only serve as practical tools for learners to apply their newfound knowledge but also act as emotional anchors, reinforcing positive feelings associated with the training. Ensuring that learners feel valued and supported even after the training program can foster a sense of belonging and encourage them to continue applying their learned skills in their personal and professional lives.


In conclusion, emotions are powerful catalysts for effective learning experiences. Understanding the impact of emotions on cognitive processes allows educators to create relevant and engaging learning environments. They can make the most out of the power of emotions by creating a context that emphasizes relevance, incorporating the right level of challenge, and fostering psychological safety. Ultimately, integrating emotions strategically in learning design can enhance motivation, deepen understanding, and inspire transformative learning journeys.

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