Learning is continuous in our lives. But how much of what we learn do we actually remember after the learning event? As designers, we want to make sure that the learning content has a strong initial impact on the learners and is successful in retaining their attention throughout the course. But how can we ensure that the learning is embedded in the minds of the learner and they are able to utilize it in their area of work?
It was the leading psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus who first pointed out that there is a definite ‘learning curve’ as well as a ‘forgetting curve’ in humans. Just as the learning curve is the natural course and time that a new learner takes to learn something the first time, the forgetting curve is the inevitable loss of learning that occurs when the knowledge is not frequently utilized in the course of work. Ebbinghaus also talks about the ‘spacing effect’ where repeating chunks of knowledge spaced over time can help decrease the loss of knowledge and increase knowledge retention.
The theory of spacing has been a topic of debate among the learning community for long. While there are still some questions over the feasibility of spaced learning, especially when time for training is limited, there are some obvious benefits that cannot be ignored.
- Spaced learning provides multiple learning opportunities, which over time, re-enforces learning impact.
- Spaced learning facilitates long-term remembering.
- With multiple opportunities of learning the same thing, the mind develops multiple ways of retrieving the knowledge – aiding faster recall.
- Training often involves persuasion to change behavior, long-term habits or values. Spaced learning provides many training instances which help learners change accordingly.
- Spaced learning also helps the learners engage deeply with the learning material and find it truly beneficial for their professional growth.
So, while the benefits of spaced learning are clear, what does it really mean for e-learning developers? How can we create multiple learning instances to deliver spaced learning?
- Verbatim repetitions: Text-based courses can be chunked into smaller sections and presented verbatim to the learner from time to time. This strategy requires very little effort, but may not be as successful as others because many learners feel boredom set in if they are required to go through the same learning content from time to time.
- Paraphrased repetitions: To ease the boredom a bit, the test content can be paraphrased and presented over time. This strategy does not take much effort to implement and is more effective than verbatim repetitions.
- Providing context and examples: To keep the learning interesting, the learning content can be presented multiple times in a completely different format, making sure that the core concepts remain same. Illustrations or infographics can be created, which present the information in an easy to read manner. Stories or examples can also be shared, which highlight the information that the learner needs to retain. The context is thus formed and the learner creates a path to go back to what is learnt – time and time again.
- Assessments and practice: Another way of spacing learning opportunities is to provide assessments after certain time lapse from the initial learning event. Not only does it throw light on how much the learner has been able to retain, but also makes the learner think more – further augmenting recall of facts and knowledge. Practice assignments can also be provided to urge the learner to think and bring information learnt onto the fore-front of the mind.
- Collaborative and collective learning: Discussions and debates can also be a powerful way of reinforcing learning. Through collaborative exercises in classrooms or virtual forums, learners can be asked to discuss the various topics learnt and provide views. They can also be given written exercises – partaken in groups. This gives them the opportunity to learn as well as revise together. Trainers or instructors can design innovative exercises that can provide the opportunity to recall as well as apply the knowledge well.
Spaced learning provides information in short bursts, spaced over time. This helps learners remember as well as recall over time. This also reduces the need to be away from work to attend long training sessions. Spaced learning is particularly helpful in the age of mobile learning, where busy learners can use mobile devices to access short bursts of mobile learning – while travelling, on the commute to work or even at home. It is then no wonder that spaced learning design is fast being adopted by many e-learning leaders for effective learning in the corporate world.
If you have some questions on Spaced Learning, we will be happy to discuss. Please feel free to contact us using the following form or mail us at in**@gc**********.net.
[contact-form-7 id=”4070″ title=”Post-page-request”]