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4 Secrets of Effective Spaced Learning

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4 Secrets of Effective Spaced Learning

The process of learning requires not only hearing and applying but also forgetting and then remembering again. – John Gray

According to Hermann Ebbinghaus who pioneered the concept of the Forgetting Curve, learners forget roughly 90% of what they have learned in just 72 hours. How can you overcome this problem and ensure your staff members retain their learning and apply it to their jobs? Well, you need to go in for spaced learning.

What is spaced learning?

Spaced learning is a learning methodology where learners are presented a concept in a 20 minute session and thereafter, a break of 10 minutes is provided. The cycle is repeated 3 or 4 times (in some cases, it could be even more) depending on the complexity of the subject matter. Researchers such as Paul Kelly showed our brains can assimilate and remember information better when learning is spaced.

Ok. How to make the best use of the spaced learning methodology?

Companies need to focus on 4 key aspects to harness the full potential of spaced learning.

1. Reinforcement of learning within 24 to 48 hours

We have seen that most learners tend to forget 90% of what they have learned in 72 hours. So, it is important to reinforce learning before this period. You can use micro-learning modules very effectively for this purpose. Bite-sized modules can be digested easily and are more effective than lengthy recap sessions. Studies by researchers at the University of California-Irvine have proved that 3-7 minute online learning nuggets “sync” perfectly with working memory capabilities of humans, facilitating better retention of the learning content.

2. Distractions from the subject-matter during breaks

During the intervals between the learning sessions, make sure your people participate in activities that distract them from the subject-matter of the course. For instance, you can allow them to play a game. The main purpose of the distractor activities is to enable the learners take a break from the training and use the time to establish connections between the new and existing knowledge.

3. Use of memory enhancement tools

Good designers of spaced learning programs use learning retention techniques such as making learners repeat the information aloud and utilizing mnemonic learning tools such as flashcards. It is important to ask your learners to summarize the information provided to them. It is s a good idea to provide your people online videos or presentations that make the repetition of information interesting.

4. Connections between new information and what learners already know

Another best practice of spaced learning is to build new knowledge on what your people already know. This allows you to repeat the learning and is necessary to ensure they don’t forget the existing knowledge. Consider this scenario.

An instructor is teaching how to develop a financial model using MS-Excel. He explains how various concepts such as data validation and formula evaluation, which the learners already know, need to be applied to create the model. The learners understand how to build the model and have the opportunity to revisit the concepts they have learned earlier. 

You need to use the spaced learning methodology to improve the knowledge retention levels of your people. To make the best use of spaced learning, you need to focus on the 4 following aspects.

  1. Reinforce learning within 24 to 48 hours of completing the training.
  2. Encourage learners to participate in activities not connected to the subject matter, during breaks between learning sessions.
  3. Make good use of memory enhancement tools.
  4. Build new knowledge on what your learners already know.

Hope you liked this post. How do you facilitate effective retention and application of learning? We’d love to know.


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