Imagine that you’ve spent more hours developing a training program than you’ve slept in a year. You’ve consulted dozens of award-winning experts, invested in more books than you can count and scoured your field to create a treasure trove of invaluable information.
In the end, you’ve developed a comprehensive masterpiece of high-quality content. This training program could transform even the most uncertain new workers into high-quality professionals, if it weren’t for one problem: 95 percent of the people who start the program can’t stay interested in it for more than five minutes.
No matter how powerful and valuable your information is, a training program without effective delivery is like trying to shoot a square basketball into an invisible hoop. There is a science to facilitating learning retention; these methods are some of the most reliable.
1. Stimulate the senses with storytelling and attractive diagrams.
Relatable is reliable. People are most willing and able to digest information that they can apply to themselves and the world around them. The more easily a person can mold newly-acquired knowledge into the frame of their life experiences, the easier it will be for them to make that knowledge intuitive.
Studies have shown that beliefs can be swayed more effectively through storytelling than through logical arguments. Consider your program to be as much a narrative as it is a lesson plan. Clearly present the beginning, middle and end with a simple synopsis. Use color theory to catch learners’ attention by catching their eyes. Metaphors, imagery and relatable anecdotes will double the power of your message and organically embed it into your learners’ hearts and minds.
2. Place as much emphasis on application as comprehension.
Practice is more powerful than preaching. Education serves no purpose without effective retention, and retention is worthless without effective application. The effectiveness of your training program will skyrocket if you offer frequent opportunities for the learners to put what they’re learning into practice, perhaps using gamification techniques.
At the end of every section, give your learners an exercise to test themselves on the material. Not only will frequent exercises break up the monotony of sitting and listening, but as the program progresses, their level of competence in the subject will increase exponentially.
3. Consider a top-down approach to more complex topics.
The top-down approach is a powerful option for streamlining learners’ ability to apply what they’ve learned. Consider two ways a new person could show you who they are: by telling you their name, or by breakdancing. The former is an introduction, but the latter is an impression. Not only does the impression demand more attention, but it also gives depth to the introduction.
You don’t just want your learners to know what concepts are called; you want them to understand what they do in real life. Before you explain the individual gears of the clock, show them what time does to a corpse. Provide relevance first and definitions later. Your learners will be reminded of the overarching purpose, enhancing retention and motivation.
4. Break down the smaller parts to make larger parts more intuitive.
Repetition is what makes the periodic table as simple as the alphabet. Develop short formulas or abbreviations to encapsulate the more tedious points of your training program, and repeat them as often as possible.
Breaking the most challenging parts into bite-sized pieces reduces intimidation, improves learners’ confidence and prevents burnout. This process is known as microlearning. Find out if your organization is ready for microlearning by taking this quiz.
5. Encourage brainstorming and interaction.
Each learner’s starting knowledge is like a snowball. Their progress is like rolling the snowball up a hill, growing steadily. When you encourage them to learn from each other, the snowball rolls back down the hill, and their rapid growth begins.
As social animals, we’re hard-wired to develop in packs. Bouncing ideas off one another is a powerful and interactive exercise in applying new knowledge. Picking each other’s brains can renew learners’ perspectives on difficult concepts and break through plateaus.
6. Humanize your content delivery.
Consider using a narrative voice or a personified avatar to deliver your content. When people feel like they’re being communicated with as individuals, their level of attentiveness increases. When you capitalize on that human aspect, your information becomes more approachable.
No matter what your program has to teach, it’s only as effective as the learners’ retention. By using these methods, you can create a graduating class of learners who may have otherwise backed out on Day 3. Imagery, application, relevance, repetition, cooperation and communication transform difficulty into discovery.