Preparing Students for In-Person Learning: Using Padlet to Reduce Cognitive Load in a Hybrid Program

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session explores and demonstrates the use of a virtual platform, Padlet, to reduce cognitive load and prepare students to transition from a virtual classroom to a face-to-face lab immersion. Participants will design their own Padlet for use in a course.


Dr. Bridget Scheidler is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Baylor University Doctor of Occupational Therapy program. Dr. Scheidler earned her Bachelor of Health Science (2004) and Master of Occupational Therapy (2005) from the University of Florida. In 2019, she earned her Doctor of Education degree, with a specialization completion in Teaching and Learning, from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Her dissertation research focused on the feelings of preparedness amongst practicing occupational therapy clinicians to work with youth exposed to school shooting.

Extended Abstract

Students enrolled in hybrid programs face challenges when it comes to integrating learning between the online and face-to-face components of a course (Boelens et al., 2017). Instructors must design hybrid courses so each learning modality complements and reinforces concepts between the two mediums. A true blending of online and face-to-face modalities is difficult to achieve however. Often one of the components of hybrid learning seems more important than the other, or the two components seem to be separate learning experiences all together. How can an instructor create meaningful flow between the online and face-to-face components of a hybrid course? One way may be to leverage simple online tools that can help students recognize connections between course concepts, organize course learning artifacts, and coordinate the application and reflection of learning across modalities. This session will showcase how one hybrid program utilized the Padlet platform to help prepare students for in-person learning to create a flow between online and face-to-face learning.

Students experience challenges in hybrid learning because of the novelty of the learning experience, the added responsibility required to participate in hybrid courses, and difficulties with managing time (Moussa-Inaty, 2017). These challenges, coupled with a multitude of supplemental materials, can quickly lead to cognitive overload. The use of a variety of platforms, reference materials, and learning activities meant to increase student learning, can result in an overload on working memory capacity and is counterproductive to long-term learning outcomes. Applying cognitive load theory (CLT) principles, a virtual platform was created to offer an easy “one-stop shop” for students to access material, visual examples, and engage in preparatory and reflective activities prior to a face-to-face immersive lab experience. The design of this platform specifically focused on two principles of CLT (a) reducing the amount of load placed upon the students’ working memory by integrating various sources of information, rather than having students access sources individually, and (b) using visual and auditory instruction techniques to increase student’s short term memory capacity, particularly in situations where both types of instruction are required (Sweller, 1988). 

To create this ‘one-stop-shop" the technology platform, Padlet, was chosen for its ease of use and flexibility. Padlet is a virtual bulletin-board where faculty can upload files, images, videos, websites, text, and audio while customizing the organization of the board. Key elements resulting in the selection of this platform was the ability to bring together course materials in one location, organize materials into meaningful chunks, and ease of use so students would not be burdened by utilizing a new technology. Even easier than a traditional LMS that can require navigation across multiple pages to access materials, Padlet creates a signal page in which all material can be housed, decreasing the impact of the environment on extraneous load.

Padlet provided a platform for critical thinking and reflection on course materials prior to engaging in a face-to-face immersive lab experience in a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) accelerated-hybrid program. The platform encouraged students’ metacomprehension to discover their current understanding of lab related course material while allowing for individual goal setting as they approached the face-to-face experience. Additionally, a section of the platform was dedicated to organizational resources to orient the student to lab immersion expectations, schedules, and assessments. When students attended the lab immersion, they were ready for active engagement in content because they understood the expectations of the lab, mitigating some of the novelty associated with the learning experience. The organization and access to necessary resources for preparation and participation in lab reduced the time required for students to gather resources independently and allowed them to focus on the learning objectives. Chunking the material into manageable components associated with specific lab activities helped to reduce the added responsibility of students knowing what they should focus on for each learning objective. Further, the platform served as a continuous resource for students that they can refer back to throughout the OTD program.

Student feedback on the use of Padlet for bridging the gap between the online and face-to-face components of the program has been positive. Students have commented on how easy Padlet is to use and how it helped them feel prepared for lab immersion activities. Students frequently engaged in the platform before, during, and after lab immersion experiences. Comments regarding the reduction in anxiety associated with lab immersion and the usefulness of preparatory media reflect the value of the platform in reducing cognitive load for students and creating a flow within the hybrid course.

Level of Participation:

This session is structured as an educational session with examples of one programs use of the Padlet platform to reduce cognitive load and facilitate flow between the online and face-to-face components of a hybrid course. A demonstration of how to build a Padlet as a tool for reducing cognitive load will be provided. Attendees will discuss the multiple uses for Padlet in reducing cognitive load and bridging the gap between online and face-to-face components of a hybrid course. Following a brief discussion, attendees will create a Padlet with step-by-step instructions that could be used in their own program.

Session Goals:

Individuals attending this presentation will be able to explain the use of Padlet to reduce cognitive load in a hybrid learning environment. They will be able to articulate the benefits of Padlet for creating a flow between online and face-to-face learning experiences in a hybrid program. Attendees will also be able to create a Padlet to use in a current or future course.


Boelens, R., De Wever, B., & Voet, M. (2017). Four key challenges to the design of blended learning: A systematic literature review. Educational Research Review, 22, 1-18.

Moussa-Inaty, J. (2017). Student experiences of a blended learning environment. International Journal of Learning, Teaching, and Educational Research, 16(9), 60-72.

Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive Science, 12, 257-285.