Cognitive Load Theory

In trying to unearth which theoretical framework(s) is best suited for my research, I have selected the cognitive load theory (CLT).

Research Focus:
My research focus is on examining the use of virtual reality (VR) for training in the retail sector.
Overarching Question:
How might VR training for the retail sector contribute to skill transfer in a way that may be scalable?
Sub Questions:
(1) What factors might be used in determining the indicators to measure the effectiveness of VR in scaling training and skill transfer?
(2) What key principles of learning design might be taken into consideration when designing VR training for the retail sector and in a way that may be scalable?

Cognitive load theory (CLT) is an instructional theory that is designed to focus on the load placed on memory during instruction (Sweller, 2011). Moreover, it is the ability of the human brain to apply instructional design based on the cognitive abilities of the brain and memory (Chong, 2005). Sweller (2011) emphasized that the cognitive load theory was designed to facilitate learning through effective instructional material. While Kirschner (2002) noted that CLT “can provide guidelines to assist in the presentation of information in a manner that encourages learner activities that optimize intellectual performance” (p.1). The instructional 0theory describes learning structures of information processing as it relates long term memory and working memory. The long-term memory stores information that is, knowledge and skills on a seemingly permanent basis while working memory is temporary and related to the immediate tasks associated with consciousness. Also, there are three types of cognitive load, they are intrinsic, extraneous, and germane (Sweller, Ayres, & Kalyuga, 2013). Intrinsic cognitive load is defined as the complexity of information processing by learners, while the extraneous cognitive load is the way in which information is being presented to learners (Sweller, Merriënboer, & Paas, 2019; Martin, 2015). On the other hand, germane cognitive load is the number of cognitive resources that a learner readily invests in the creation and construction of knowledge (Paas, Renkl, & Sweller, 2010; Sweller, 2011). Equally, the CLT framework posits that “by maintaining the extraneous and the germane loads constant, students can identify changes in the element interactivity’ within problems by means of subjective measures, and thus successfully quantify the intrinsic cognitive load” (Orru & Longo, 2019, p.8).

In utilizing the CLT framework as a foundation for my research, would assist in assessing and examining VR use in training (instructional design), skill transfer, and scalability.

Feedback and suggestions or any guidance are greatly appreciated.  Much thanks! 


Chong, T. S. (2005). Recent advances in cognitive load theory research: Implications for instructional designers. Malaysian Online Journal of Instructional Technology,2(3), 106-117. Retrieved from

Kirschner, P. (2002). Cognitive load theory: Implications of cognitive load theory on the design of learning. Learning and Instruction, 12(1), 1-10. DOI:10.1016/S0959-4752(01)00014-7

Martin, S. (2015). Measuring cognitive load and cognition: Metrics for technology-enhanced learning. Educational Research and Evaluation, 20 (7-8), 592-621.

Orru, G. & Longo, L. (2019). The evolution of cognitive load theory and the measurement of its Intrinsic, Extraneous and Germane Loads: A Review. In: Longo L., Leva M. (eds) Human mental workload: Models and applications. Communications in Computer and Information Science, 1012, 23-48.

Paas, F., Renkl, A., & Sweller, J. (2010). Cognitive load theory design: Recent developments. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 1-4.

Sweller, J. (2011). Chapter two: Cognitive load theory. Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 55, 37-76.

Sweller, J., Ayres, P., & Kalyuga, S. (2013). Cognitive load theory. The Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 14(2), 313-315. Retrieved from