You’ve just launched a new high-profile learning and development initiative and are reviewing the course evaluations of the first session delivery with your team. Most ratings are nines and tens, the comments on the facilitator are glowing and learners raved about the entertaining and educational video presentation. You and your team celebrate – the training was clearly a big success.
Or was it?
The goal of training is to impart the information employees need to improve job performance and productivity in their roles. While learners were engaged during the session, how much of the information will they retain and be able to put into action in their daily jobs? A challenge all training professionals face is that is once a training event is over, the amount of information retained will decline over time. This has been documented in the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve.
Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve
The Forgetting Curve, developed by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885 based on experiments with his own memory, suggests that as soon as a learning event is completed, participants will start forgetting the material. The decline in memory is sharp immediately after the event and continues over time.
After one hour, people retain less than half of the information presented. After one day, they forget more than 70%, and after six days 75% of the information in the training.1
Some of the factors that influence the Forgetting Curve include:
High Cost of Forgetting
According to Training Magazine’s 2017 Training Industry Report, the total 2017 U.S. training expenditures rose significantly, increasing 32.5% to $90.6 billion.2 That is a large amount of money to spend when learners are not retaining material, meaning that training events are not meeting the knowledge and skill gaps or business objectives they were designed to address.
So how do you minimize the Forgetting Curve and improve the return on training investment?
Dr. Art Kohn, Ph.D., a professor at Portland State University and corporate training consultant, maintains that to improve information retention, “…what you do after learning material is more important than what you do while learning material.”3
Kohn suggests that small “booster” events scheduled at intervals after the session can stimulate the recall of information and lead to greater retention over time4, committing the learning material to long-term memory.
The question is how to provide these boosters to training participants? A tool that is highly effective for delivering these events and mitigating the Forgetting Curve is Microlearning.
Microlearning is short training segments of three to ten minutes, covering one specific topic to keep it focused and aid retention. The training is available on-demand and on multiple devices so learners can access the material when it is convenient for them.
Spaced learning – Spaced learning reinforces the training by presenting short, focused topics from the session at intervals over time. When you consider the Forgetting Curve begins immediately after the event, planning the microlearning modules to be delivered in the hours, days and weeks, even months, after the training is most effective. Depending on the complexity of the material, this could involve a few microlearning sessions or many over time.
Active recall – The concept of active recall in learning is that committing information to memory is more effective when actively stimulating the memory rather than passively reviewing the material such as reading, watching or listening. Examples of active events include quizzes, reviewing a video followed by questions to answer, and describing the material or teaching it to someone else.
Strength of memory – Consider how much information you are exposed to every day. Some is important, some not – but your brain can’t distinguish between the two. We tend to remember things that are relevant to us – for example, when you’re commuting to work, you remember the number of your bus, but have no recollection of the bus numbers for other routes you don’t use.
With microlearning, if the information and activities are relevant to your job, you will be more likely to remember them. A booster event like a quiz that forces you to recall specific aspects from a training session will tell your brain the information is important and help you retain it. With the importance of microlearning to mitigating the Forgetting Curve and improving the effectiveness of training, learning and development teams would be wise to plan for these events as part of a new training initiative, not as an afterthought. When building the training session, identify the key topics to be reinforced, create the microlearning modules, and schedule them to be delivered to learners immediately following the event. This will add some work to the project, but when you consider how it will improve training ROI, it is well worth the time and effort.
1 https://www.getbridge.com/node/116 [need another reference]