How to use variety in your courses to beat the forgetting curve

Long-term retention of learning is hard to achieve through one-off learning events/courses. That’s because, all too often, we forget what we learned soon after the course ends. This blog post explains how you can utilize different course templates and question types to beat the forgetting curve.

By Kasper Spiro on Jul 6th


The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve

Human beings forget 90% of what we have learned within hours of learning it. This is simply the way our brain is wired.

In today’s highly specialized learning world, people often ask why they need to remember and recall information when it can be digitally retrieved whenever they need it. Not every work situation is conducive to performance support, though. We need something more that works in conjunction with “just-in-time” learning aids.

For instance, would you prefer to fly with a pilot who continually refers to a manual to learn on the job how to fly, or with someone who has practiced flying to perfection and refers to a guide only when he or she needs additional information? Some jobs require lengthy practice, and fundamental information must be memorized to make sure the basics are in place.

There’s only one way to beat the forgetting curve: repetition. That means providing opportunities for your learners to repeat information so there is a lasting cognitive effect and they retain more. It’s a good idea to provide repetition in different forms too. Don’t just repeat but choose to re-introduce the information in different formats: a course, scenario, quiz, video, etc.

Forgetting curve

Start with blended learning

Say you conduct a day-long classroom training session on the core mechanics of a complex product. How can you ensure that your learners remember the fundamentals after the training is over?

Assessments are a good way of measuring knowledge or proficiency in a subject. However, learners remember even more when they take part in follow-up or practice sessions that enable them to apply their knowledge directly. Repetitive practice familiarizes learners with the information and enables them to perform well on the job and helps reinforce the training effectively. This mixture is known as blended learning.

Easygenerator provides you with several content options to re-introduce the content or to blend content in different formats:

  • Scenarios to allow the learners to practice in a safe environment
  • Hotspots to provide a visual and realistic learning aid
  • Curation to share a bunch of meaningful resources along with their context
  • Show more to add an excerpt of content, followed by the detailed explanation

Use e-learning tools to create practice sessions for learners to take part in at their convenience. This creates the perfect blended learning experience that learning and development (L&D) teams aspire toward.

How can SMEs incorporate repetition into their e-learning courses?

Make sure your course is not just a huge, single-serving chunk of knowledge. Build small parts that contain repetition that you can offer over time.

When creating your course, identify assessment/activity questions that allow learners to process and reflect on the information repeatedly. Easygenerator offers a variety of question types; using a variety of questions can increase understanding and knowledge retention. Choose question types that allow learners to put their new knowledge into practice while also receiving feedback.

Easygenerator questions

How do you space learning?

Repetition promotes quicker memory recall and helps with short-term information retention. What about long-term memory? The solution is “spaced repetition”: allowing some time to pass between learning episodes.

Usually, the repetition follows a one-off course or program. You create a course and then create follow-up learning events as assessments or supplementary courses to reinforce the original information.

Easygenerator takes a user-centered approach, offering multiple course templates to aid your learners. These templates allow you to present the same information in slightly different ways. You can create the core content in one template and then create a follow-up course in another. As Easygenerator is a cloud-based, collaborative authoring tool, you or your colleagues can simply log in and share the follow-up learning content with learners once the right amount of time has passed.

Remember: repetitions are good, but spaced repetitions are even better.

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About the author

Kasper Spiro is the CEO of Easygenerator and a recognized thought leader in the world of e-learning. With over 30 years of experience, he is a frequently asked keynote speaker and well-renowned blogger within the e-learning community.

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