The Learning Pyramid and Its Impact on e-Learning Design

The Learning Pyramid and Its Impact on e-Learning Design!

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by Liubomyr Sirskyi
Copywriter at Kwiga

Learning must remain as effective and exciting as possible to benefit people. Therefore, teachers are constantly looking for new ways to make students better. It helps develop critical thinking skills in students and process a large amount of new information.

At the same time, many teachers have come across a learning pyramid - the main steps for creating a training program. But as for now, the education system considers many more factors than 30 years ago. Therefore, modern teachers are increasingly questioning the effectiveness of such a model. So, let's see what the learning pyramid is and how relevant it is nowadays.

What Is the Learning Pyramid

The learning pyramid is a model that demonstrates the ability of learners to replicate what they have learned. Ohio University professor Edgar Dale introduced it in 1946.

The scheme considers all levels of memorization and reproduction. The first four levels display passive methods - lecture, reading, audio visualization, and demonstration. Then there are active methods that influence the student's personal experience - group discussion, practice, and practical application of knowledge (or teaching others).

The learning pyramid is designed to determine the correct approach to learning a particular topic. In addition, it is suitable for various educational models, including e-learning. Therefore, the creators of online courses are still using the Dale model.

The Division of the Learning Pyramid

As we have already said, the pyramid divides into three levels - from abstract approaches to specific ones. Therefore, consider the entire model in decreasing order.

№1: Verbal Perception

The learning pyramid shows the top three sublevels that are related to passive learning:

  1. Reading (you remember about 10% of the text you read).
  2. Perception of information by ear (remembering 20% of what you've heard).
  3. Viewing images (you will remember about 30% of the information received).

At the same time, one cannot speak of the exceptional effectiveness or, on the contrary, the uselessness of one or another method of learning. The reason is simple: students get only a basic understanding of the material. Therefore, all these tasks are used to give a basic description or explanation of a phenomenon.

The creator of the learning pyramid does not back up the numbers with scientific facts. However, there are a couple of interesting points. So, Dale emphasizes that learning is initially associated with the senses involved in the learning process. And if we consider each way of perception, its effectiveness will be low.

Moreover, some sense organs work better with cognitive thinking. So you remember more when you look at pictures and less when you listen. Reading takes the last place in the retention of knowledge in long-term memory. It is due to the low stimulus level that can be embedded in a written text.

№2: Visual Perception

Let's move on to higher levels of mastering the material. Visual methods give the following indicators of memorization:

  • Watching a video (30% of the knowledge gained);
  • Acquaintance with a visual aid (50% of what they saw);
  • Watching an online lesson (50% of the information received).

In this case, students can remember much more new information. It is all because visual perception involves both sight and hearing. This approach helps to stimulate the brain and affect the assimilation of new knowledge and the development of critical thinking.

According to Edgar Dale, passive forms of learning are not the best but can bring certain benefits. Thus, audio visualization and demonstration help better understand the subject (compared to ordinary reading). In addition, students find more logical connections to expand their horizons.

Passive forms of learning do not take up much space in the learning pyramid. Therefore, it can be erroneously assumed that reading or watching online lessons does not give many benefits. But this is far from the truth. For example, memorization of information is not an indicator of extraordinary mindset since this approach only develops memory, on which the retention of knowledge depends. And passive learning allows you to study new topics and explore the world independently.

We've considered only passive learning methods when success depends solely on the students.

№3: Participation

Now let's turn our attention to the 3rd level of the educational pyramid. Edgar Dale considers it the most effective form of acquiring new knowledge as students move to active learning.

This approach requires high concentration and involvement in the subject being studied. Thus, the learning pyramid provides the following methods of active cognition:

  • Training videos and practical seminars (the brain retains 70% of information);
  • Role-playing games (retaining 70% of knowledge);
  • Real business simulation (70% retention);
  • Completion of a specific task (90% learning).

These active learning methods involve modeling experiences, doing things, and discussing. Through “learning by doing,” students improve their analytical skills and look for effective solutions. Further, they may show their creativity.

Of course, all the figures above are approximate and have no scientific background. But if you pay attention solely to the levels of memory and remembering, then you can understand that Edgar Dale was right. His learning pyramid allows you to increase the level of retention of knowledge.

But one question remains open: how much this approach helps to keep knowledge in long-term memory? Educational experts believe that the Dale model does not consider the individual factors of each student (innate abilities, social and economic situation, existing knowledge base, mental capacity, etc.).

How Compatible Are the Learning Pyramid and Modern Technology

Moreover, analysts doubt the relevance of Dale's pyramid. They believe that it does not quite fit into the concepts of modern educational platforms. What learning forms are suitable for the implementation of the Dale model?

Modern learning technologies allow you to easily and quickly create educational content of any format. In addition, LMS solutions offer a wide range of tools to build your curriculum and provide a first-class learning experience.

First, many formats fit the Dale model, from standard presentations and PDF documents to interactive video tutorials. Moreover, virtual classrooms and non-formal education strategies are advanced practical learning proposed in the middle of the 20th century. In essence, innovation guarantees the discovery and creation of a dynamic experience of remembering and sharing information.

Secondly, game mechanics fit perfectly into the learning pyramid. If earlier tutors used educational TV channels and movies to captivate students, now they have been replaced by platforms with ratings and leaderboards. It also includes simulations of the activities of actual companies or individual business processes. All this allows students to train themselves in the process of solving problems.

However, some forms of interaction were not available when the learning pyramid was created. Thus, augmented and virtual reality technologies are gradually beginning to be used in eLearning, involving students as much as possible. With their help, you can create realistic simulations and even entire metaverses. Therefore, these technologies have great promise.

Many elements of the learning pyramid described by Edgar Dale are now out of date. However, this model is flexible enough to be combined with modern educational tools. It is crucial to maintain a balance between passive and active teaching methods. Every online course founder needs to vary the content delivery formats to create a complete and highly effective learning environment.

What Do Educators Think About the Learning Pyramid Now?

Opinions of teachers on this matter are divided. Some believe that the Dale pyramid is still useful for online learning. Others ruthlessly send the obsolete model to the dustbin of history.

Denise Pirrotti Hummel, CEO of Universal Consensus, believes hybrid learning methods are the best choice right now. Educational platforms should provide competent theory teaching and constant interaction through video conferences and discussions. This approach allows you to confirm the usefulness of the knowledge gained and effectively apply it in the future. As for the pyramid of learning, Hummel considers it is relevant now.

At this time, Dillon Vita-Finzi of Cisco Technologies believes that Dale's pyramid should not be raised to the absolute. She gives the results of a study on retaining information in long-term memory. And they are very different from the numbers proposed by Dale. According to Vita-Finzi, retention rates in the learning pyramid attempt to explain complex phenomena in simple terms. However, it is necessary to adapt the learning scheme to various factors (educational platforms, different modalities, interactive technologies, individual characteristics, etc.).

The educational field continues to evolve rapidly, and online learning is very different from 10 years ago. As a result, this area will be one of the leading testing grounds for new technologies, creating new dynamic and colorful eLearning options. People will use metaverses, augmented reality environments, or online gamified platforms to learn in the offing.


Let's sum it up. The learning pyramid allows you to build an effective learning plan. However, the final success depends on the learning style of each student. For example, some students better visually remember and assimilate knowledge, while others like to listen more. Therefore, it is imperative to allow the target audience to learn at their own pace. This approach will improve the performance of your online course.

Remember: your learning algorithm doesn't have to stay the same forever. Flexibility is the main secret to the success of eLearning. Therefore, you should not blindly believe the educational pyramid and not use lectures because they will not give the desired effect. On the contrary, traditional lectures are essential. Every element of Dale's pyramid is essential.

For example, a student takes notes during class because it is difficult to remember all the material. On the one hand, it uses one channel of perception (eyes or ears). On the other hand, however, the resulting notes can help discuss the material during discussions with the lecturer or become the basis of your own course.

There is no one right way to learn. And only you can find the method that will help your students succeed!

We hope that you found our article helpful. If you have any questions about the learning pyramid, leave them in the comments below. We will answer and analyze the most interesting ones in the following articles.