Ever heard of Subsumption Theory referenced in an eLearning context? Essentially, it’s a theory that refers to the way learners absorb new information.

David Ausubel, an educational Psychologist, introduced this theory in the 1960s—which pivots on the thought that learners can learn more effectively if new information is tied in with their current knowledge base.

Sounds logical, right? Let’s dive into the specifics of this theory and look at how you can use it to design courses aimed at high learners retention rates.

Subsumption Theory 101

There are two main types of subsumption: Derivative and Correlative.

Both types relate to training in which learners’ minds develop new cognitive behaviors and structures for data. Here’s how they’re different:

Derivative: New information is derived from current knowledge base. Think of this as linking together ideas for new, more complex meanings.

Correlative: New information extends beyond foundation of knowledge, and adds to the learner’s general knowledge base.

With the right structures in place, the learner can use both of these types of subsumption in real-life simulations.

How to Use Subsumption Theory in eLearning

Now that we know what the two types are, we can think about how to leverage them for better eLearning courses.

  1. Tap into the existing knowledge base

Since this theory indicates that effective learning accesses the learner’s current knowledge base, your lessons should strive to get learners thinking about what they already know when learning new concepts. Scenario-based learning is a great way to let this play out.

Just remember: Learners need readily available feedback to know when they’re right and when they’re wrong.

  1. Real-life examples to make meaningful connections

We’re big fans of using realistic branched scenarios that let learners practice lessons in situations they might actually experience at work or in real life. Doing this taps into subsumption because, again, you’re creating those memorable learning experiences that are easier for learners to think back on at a later time.

It’s one thing to learn new facts, but when they are linked to stories, characters, and big-picture examples, they become more deeply rooted in memory.

  1. Present key lessons before and after each module

Reinforcing key lessons both before and after each specific module helps learners build strong sequential links—which Ausubel calls progressive differentiation. In doing this, you are making that categorization process simpler—which aids cognitive structuring.

Then use the tell me, show me, let me method to really drive home key lessons.

Use Subsumption Theory for Home Run eLearning

Take advantage of both derivative and correlative subsumption to add a new aspect to your eLearning. Your learners will be able to more readily recall information—and they’ll have impactful experienced-based learning opportunities to pull from, too.