The Peak-End Rule: How your students will remember your online course

The Peak-End Rule: How your students will remember your online course

Curriculum Design
Publish Date
Nov 24, 2021
Turns out how we remember experiences often doesn't accurately reflect what actually happened.
Shocker...I know!
You could have had a lovely vacation in Mexico, but all you recall is losing your passport and being stuck at the embassy for hours.
The culprit is a pesky cognitive bias called the Peak-End Rule.
When your brain creates memories, it weighs intense positive or negative moments (the peaks) and the final moments (the end) of an experience more heavily. Everything in between fades away.
Now, the good news is...

You can use the Peak-End Rule to your advantage when creating an online course or workshop

The Peak-End Rule applies to every live session or workshop you run. And obviously, you want your students to form positive memories and tell all their friends. Here are my suggestions on how to achieve that:

1. Create positive "peaks" during your session

A "peak" – an intense, positive moment – usually arises when a student has a breakthrough.
When a door that seemed locked suddenly opens and they see a new way forward.
These breakthroughs hardly happen during a lecture. Students need to switch from passively listening to actively engaging with the material.
That's why the peaks of your sessions are the exercises.
Action step: Plan 1-2 exercises to help students reflect on what you taught, apply it in real-life, and identify the next steps. Incorporate breakout rooms where students can share their thoughts and learn from each other.
The Troika Consulting exercise is a great example of how you can actively create memorable breakthroughs for your students.

2. End strong

Many sessions I've attended (and run myself) naturally fizzle out into Q&A.
I'm not saying that's bad. But it doesn't create a memorable closing.
Someone who has nailed ending strong is David Perell in his course Write of Passage.
Each session ends with a story from David after Course Director Will has announced the assignment and what's coming next.
In 2-5 minutes, he shares heartwarming and inspiring stories that leave you with a fuzzy feeling as the Zoom window closes.
I've attended these sessions in the late evenings when in Europe, and falling asleep wasn't an option after that.
Action step: Plan how you'll end your sessions. What story can you tell that reinforces the message that you want students to take away from this session?
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