Teach on Mars contents authors: Lesson #9 – To err is human

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Dear Humans,

In previous lessons, we explored the depths of our human thinking process, how complex it sometimes is and how we may enrich our contents by capitalizing on our brain understanding.

However, we have so far ignored a dark side! Mistakes! People always make mistakes. Whether from the perspective of a producer or a consumer, there is no fail-safe product. How can we anticipate potential errors? How can we figure out the kinds of mistakes learners are going to make when they go through a training activity? …

The following paragraphs give you some tips to handle any errors upstream and as a result, enhance the quality of your contents.

First, let’s assume that something will go wrong and let’s inform learners onward. When something seems erroneous or risky, it is important that users know what to do about it. Scientists have conducted researches and classified errors:

  • Performance errors are mistakes users make while fulfilling steps to complete an action. They may be commission errors (take additional useless steps), omission errors (forget steps) or wrong-actions errors (perform inadequate actions)
  • Motor-control errors are false physical gestures users make when handling an application device, like swiping a screen instead of touching it

These predictable types of errors should always be considered while designing an application in order to prevent users and/or inform them about the correct(ive) actions to take.

Tip: Anticipate potential problems and inform users on remedial actions

Teach on Mars illustration on anticipating issues: ToM Enterprise offers both downloading videos or playing them in streaming mode. A message warns learners in the process of choosing the streaming mode  that they will then need a connection to watch them. 


A preload video option


A warning message

Second, according to several studies, users’ performance to complete an activity depends on their level of stress. Overall, experts think that the more complex the task is, the less should be the stress level. And when the stakes go too high, errors start appearing (like the tunnel action, i.e. keep on doing the same action again and again, although it is not working).

To optimize its contents, it is therefore recommended to limit the stress associated to complex tasks and vice versa to increase the stress for simpler activities. In the context of educational contents, stress may be heightened by distracting elements such as colors, sound or movements.

Tip: Weight the stressors of an activity according to its difficulty.

Teach on Mars illustration on leveraging the stress level:


A reading activity
Boosted by videos


A challenge activity
Simple as possible


We now are a bit more trimmed vis-a-vis the human mistakes! In the next lesson, we will focus on… how we focus our attention!

Looking forward to writing to you!

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Ergonomic Design for Impactful Digital Resources

Ergonomic Design for Impactful Digital Resources

Cognitive ergonomics, dedicated to optimizing human-machine interactions, enhances productivity in digital design. Thoughtful integration of visual aids and sound, following Mayer and Mousavi’s principles, improves comprehension and reduces cognitive load. Sequence, conciseness, and awareness of redundancy are crucial for maximizing the effectiveness of digital resources.