There’s a great deal of science in the world related to learning retention. While experts disagree on the exact percentage of knowledge retained from different instructional methodologies, there’s no argument that active learning is more effective than passive learning.

Passive learning includes things like listening to a lecture, reading a piece of material, or even observing a demonstration – all situations in which a learner is simply a recipient of some content or knowledge. Without a place to apply that learning or see it in action in a realistic way, they are all less likely to remember it when it comes time to use it in the real world.

Active learning, on the other hand, engages the mind in a much more – you guessed it – active way. Lively discussions, participating in a demonstration rather than observing, or learning by doing through a tool like a computer-based simulation are all examples of active learning that stimulates the mind and leads to much greater retention of knowledge over time.

With training budgets under scrutiny and organizations looking to maximize the time spent on developing employees, retention is a key metric of success. As learning and development professionals look for ways to integrate training opportunities into other corporate events like conferences and tradeshows, it becomes even more critical to reinforce learning and give employees a chance to apply it immediately for maximum retention. In these cases, simulations are emerging as effective capstone exercises to consolidate and reinforce the most important learning elements of a conference or event.

As a team activity, capstone simulations draw on all of the most effective forms of active learning.

  • Active discussion: When a team is faced with a simulated scenario or challenge, its members have the opportunity to engage in dynamic discussion to reach a conclusion. Listening to other viewpoints, analyzing information, and voicing an opinion engages the mind in a way that opens pathways to knowledge gain and supports retention.
  • Sharing or demonstrating knowledge: When a team is composed of members from a variety of functions or roles, the potential for sharing knowledge skyrockets. If each team member has a unique or specialized area of expertise that they can share with others, the entire team benefits from the active transfer of information.
  • Learning by doing: A computer-based simulation is active by nature – teams must click through screens, enter information and take action to move through the experience. When designed around relevant content and ideas that can be easily linked back to the real world, a simulation can act as a flight simulator for business, allowing teams to practice and apply new skills in a risk-free environment before transferring learning back to the job.  As they make decisions and see immediate impacts, lessons are stored in their brains in a way that’s much easier to recall and apply at a later date.

This is exactly the kind of experience that leads to true knowledge gain as part of a learning event, and one that makes any investment in a capstone simulation experience more than worthwhile.