Hermann Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve states that learners forget up to 90 percent of what they’ve learned, just days after an educational event. However, there are companies that manage to maintain high knowledge retention levels among their employees, and, thus, ensure positive ROI for their L&D efforts.
E-learning increases knowledge retention rates by up to 60 percent, compared to 8 to 10 percent for offline training. Five e-learning reinforcement strategies in particular are helpful: spaced repetition, microlearning, gamification, coaching and enablement.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these strategies.
1. Spaced Repetitions
Bob Pike, chairman and CEO of train-the-trainer firm The Bob Pike Group, writes that “training is a process, not an event.” If training is delivered in the form of an event without any follow-up, then there is a risk of trapping learners in the forgetting curve. One way to avoid this problem is spaced repetition, where learners hear the same information several times during an educational event or a course and, after the training, at specific time intervals.
This technique works best when the process is personalized to each learner, so that the content in which he or she is weakest is refreshed most often. You can make the repetitions even more effective by delivering them in different media formats, such as text, graphics, video and audio.
Delivering your content in small, bite-sized chunks is a great way to reinforce training. The popularity of this method is attributed to our ever-decreasing attention span and general information overload.
Microlearning activities only take minutes. In fact, L&D professionals at General Assembly have found that three minutes is the optimal length for a microlearning session. What’s more, those minutes can be spent anywhere: in traffic jams, between meetings or on the subway.
Another widely used method for training reinforcement is gamification, using elements like leaderboards and badges, and/or serious games. Games and game elements inspire engagement and motivation, and many companies use them as a way to conduct fun and interactive post-training assessments to determine knowledge retention.
In order for training to be successful, it actually has to be put to practice. Coaches can help learners do just that. In research by Sales Progress, 46 percent of respondents rated “coaching by the sales manager” as one of the most effective ways to reinforce new sales skills.
Coaches guide, provide feedback and hold employees accountable for bringing necessary changes to the workplace. This role can be performed by external coaches or supervisors or colleagues who have the necessary expertise to share and care about the success of their co-workers.
Enablement is another important way to bridge the gap between theory and practice. It involves equipping employees with processes, methodologies and tools to help them actually use their new knowledge and skills on the job. Enablement tools include presentation decks, checklists, action plans, cheat sheets and call scenarios.
If you want your training to manifest itself in business outcomes, you need to reinforce it.
Reinforcement is about repetition, and there are proven ways to do it efficiently, including following up on training in regular time intervals, delivering material in small chunks and in different formats, and engaging learners with gamification. Then, you can make sure learners apply the training through coaching and enablement.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand” (Confucius).