Students forget their learning almost immediately, so how can you help them to remember?

The forgetting curve is a concept that has been in learning for ages, but doesn’t seem to be influencing eLearning as much as it should. The German experimental psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus theorized that the longer we wait after learning new information to practice what we learned, the more we forget it. Don’t overlook this important feature of human learning when you design your eLearning courses.

The basic features of the learning curve include some essential truths about how the human brain creates strong memories:

Students can memories materials more easily when the information is meaningful and relevant to their lives.

The volume of material to learn exponentially increases the time it takes students to learn the information.

Students begin to forget information immediately after learning it.

Relearning is easier and more effective than the first time learning new information. Each subsequent re-learning creates a longer slope on the forgetting curve.

What This Means for ELearning Courses

The forgetting curve shows that a single session is no way to teach a student – or a worker. Too often, businesses hold annual training sessions that do little to help workers remember the information. By understanding the learning curve, companies can instead create distributed practice sessions that keep information alive while making it easier and less stressful for workers to implement what they learn.

Every worker should attend an initial training course and three follow up re-learning sessions soon after. There is no ideal timeline, but Ebbinghaus’ research suggests you should each follow up within two or three days of the last. Other research suggests you should hold the first re-learning session a few days after the initial training, then another a week later and another two months later. You will need to test which method benefits your employees most.

Tips for Distributed Practice

Design courses so that students understand why they must learn the information. Create examples of how to use the learning in the workplace, how it affects the worker and how it affects the company as a whole. Use visual, audio and hands-on practice to help students of all learning styles grasp the material.

At the end of the third re-learning session, workers should be tested to see how much of the information they have mastered. The best way to do this is have the students teach the information back to the teacher. They should be able to explain the importance of the information and how to use it in practice.

This will help you identify the students that will need the most attention in re-learning sessions. Those who have difficulty should be scheduled for relearning the following month and once per month until the information is mastered. Once all students can teach what they have learned, you can schedule review sessions annually.

Let Knowledge Anywhere help you design a more effective training program.

Knowledge Anywhere has the elearning tools to help you implement and manage effective training program that uses the forgetting curve theory to maximize knowledge retention.

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