Are you concerned about cognitive overload undermining the effectiveness of your online training program? In this article, I’ll highlight the best practices for applying Spaced Learning in your online training strategy, so that you can improve knowledge retention and recall among your staff members.

How To Apply Spaced Learning In Online Training

There are a number of people that we can thank for Spaced Learning; R. Douglas Fields introduced us to the temporal pattern of stimuli related to the long-term memory, while Paul Kelley and his team developed the method that relies on Field’s research. All of these great minds discovered that the human brain can absorb and retain more information if learning activities are spaced.

The ideal formula is a 15 to 20-minute online training session that is followed by a 10-minute break. This cycle repeats 3 or 4 times, or as long as needed. The secret is to offer the mind a respite from the subject matter so that it can assimilate and reflect upon the information. Here are the 6 best practices that can help you integrate the Spaced Learning model into your online training course design.

1. Remember the Forgetting Curve.

Hermann Ebbinghaus introduced the Forgetting Curve, which is a hypothesis that centers on the amount of information we are able to retain over a period of time.

Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve
Based on the Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve, learners will have forgotten an average of 90% percent of what they have learned within the first month.

According to the curve, we forget roughly 90 percent of what we learn in a matter of just three days. Thus, it’s essential to review and recap information within the first 24-to-48 hours, so that we can effectively recall concepts and ideas. Spaced Learning relies on the forgetting curve to a major extent, as it determines exactly how long each of the online activities must be spaced in order to achieve the desired results.

2. Give your employees a break.

A Spaced Learning strategy cannot be truly effective unless you give your employees a break in between online training modules. More importantly, during this break they should be encouraged to participate in online activities that distract them from the subject matter. For example, getting up and stretching or even playing a serious game can give them the time they need to absorb and retain the information. And don’t forget the importance of informal learning and serendipitous learning for cementing and expanding learner knowledge.

The main purpose of this respite from online training is to offer their mind an opportunity to form connections between new ideas and existing concepts, as well as group related information together, so that it can be condensed within the mental schema.

3. Integrate memory enhancement tools to improve knowledge retention.

Memory enhancement tools are aids that help employees to remember the concepts and ideas more effectively. Repeating the information aloud, using flashcards or other mnemonic devices, and summarizing the online training content by putting it into their own words are all activities that can boost knowledge retention. It may even be wise to integrate these memory enhancement tools into your online training program, so that your employees can use them on a regular basis without having to leave the online training course.

Also, offer corporate learners a list of supplemental activities and online training content that they can use to improve information recall, such as eLearning videos or online presentations that repeat the essential information in a new and memorable way.

4. Tie new information to existing knowledge.

In order to form a meaningful connection between what they are learning and what they already know, you must be able to tie new information to their existing knowledge base. It is much easier for the human mind to build upon an idea that it already understands or to associate a new concept with one that has already been memorized.

Essentially, your employees should be able to link these two pieces of information together so that they can retain the new content and repeat the old, which also makes it less likely that they will forget the existing knowledge. It’s a win-win situation. To apply this in your online training program, create stories, real world examples, and eLearning assessments that help employees see the connection.

5. Active recall is essential.

It is not enough for your corporate learners to just review and recap the information; they must also actively recall it. If you simply ask them to read through a brief summary or test their knowledge with a multiple-choice exam, they are not going to be able to commit the ideas to long-term memory. Instead, it will probably just sit in their working memory until they are done with the online activity, and then it will be replaced by yet another new concept. Active recall, on the other hand, allows them to interact and apply the information they have learned, which enhances knowledge retention.

Encourage them to participate in online scenarios or eLearning games which put their knowledge into action, or invite them to create an online presentation that highlights the essential takeaways of the online training session. The goal is to get them to explore every aspect of the online training module, instead of just glancing over the content.

6. Create mobile-friendly reinforcement activities.

Spaced Learning in online training is best when it is convenient and portable. Think of it this way: do you want your employees to sit in a training room for an hour while they complete their Spaced Learning cycles, or would you prefer that they carry out their job duties in between each online activity? Giving them the opportunity to be on-the-job during their training breaks also serves as a great distraction, which allows them to absorb and retain the information. This is why it’s so important to create mobile-friendly reinforcement activities that they can access anywhere. You may provide them with additional mobile-friendly online scenarios, simulations, online assessments, and games adjusted for their smartphones or tablets, so that they get the online training they need when they need it.

It’s not about how long we train, but how long we allow our brains to process the information and tuck it away into our mental schema. Use these 6 tips to apply Spaced Learning in online training and create more effective and memorable online training courses.

The Spaced Learning model focuses on long-term memory. However, working memory also plays a crucial role in successful online training experiences. Read the article Enhancing Working Memory: 6 Strategies For eLearning Professionals to learn about strategies that can help enhance working memory in your online training courses.

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