Anyone can create an eLearning course. But creating an eLearning course that works, and has an impact takes time and effort. Of course, good design, an intuitive user experience, and relevant content are key elements to factor in. However, despite the course turning out to look amazing and despite the eagerness of your employees to absorb all this information, they may forget what they’ve learned as soon as they get back to their desks.
The problem at hand has a name and goes by learning decay. It’s the natural process of forgetting things we don’t use over time. Our minds register them as useless and drop 'em. However, if specific strategies are used throughout your eLearning course to indicate that the information is important, it’s deemed valuable for long-term memory.
Retaining information is one of the main challenges businesses face. Marketing professionals struggle to make customers remember their brands. Public speakers try to get people to remember what they hear and see in a speech. The eLearning realm is no exception to this tendency. People are naturally wired to forget information that isn’t relevant. When they aren’t connected with the topic, the design, or the content, they just tune it out.
In the busy and saturated world, we now live in; the brain is always at work evaluating what information is "needed to remember" and what’s not.
As an eLearning professional, it’s your job to set off the triggers that will take something from your learner's short-term to their long-term memory.
That said, building retention boosters into your online learning programs will go a long way. Here are some tricks to improve employee learning retention:
1) Hit Replay!
It’s necessary to create constant reminders of the “need to know” material since the brain will discard information that is not used.
Why do you unconsciously remember the lyrics to the song on the radio? You remember it because you’ve heard it 1,000 times, probably!
The first opportunity that you will have to do this is during the course. In some language courses or apps, learners are tested on the previous lesson before moving on to the next one, for instance. Everything they’ve been learning, they are asked to recall and apply in order to continue.
If the brain didn’t expect to see that again, it’s going to take note. This is the first indication that they should not be forgotten.
You can replicate this same strategy when designing your eLearning course.
Another opportunity where you can utilize a repetition strategy to improve learning retention is after the student completes the course. Creating short, but repetitive exercises after a training course will create the mental note mentioned above. The constant “recall” leaves a mark and will increase your retention levels significantly.
2) Make It Easy to Take Home - Short Bursts of Content Supercharge Retention!
We know that the brain is overloaded with content daily, which will make the amount of information you provide a defining factor. This brings us to another method that can be applied to boost retention during a program: Microlearning.
Microlearning is "serving" or presenting content to a learner in digestible bites, for the learner to consume at their own pace. These short bursts of interactive content give learners feel manageable to learners. One sentence is easier to remember than two or three, right?
When an idea is simple and straightforward, it's easier to digest. When we understand a concept and why it will be useful, there is less room to question its importance. Make micro eLearning courses, and focus each module on ONE defined concept.
Immediately after students have completed the module, provide them with a short summary and an opportunity to apply it. These exercises are fundamental to retaining information, which we will discuss further in the point below.
3) Apply Childhood Tricks
Humans love stories. For a significant part of your childhood, you were told stories with the goal of learning something relevant to your safety or development. Whether it was learning to share with others, that strangers are dangerous, or learning to be kind, stories were, at times, the most impactful way to get us to recall a message.
Adding characters, setting up scenarios, case studies, and examples, are all tools that help you create an emotional connection with your audience in your eLearning course too.
For instance, if you are eager to teach your employees about a process, show a friendly and straightforward story of someone much like them facing a challenge, taking action to solve the problem, and obtaining specific results. It'd be easier for them to remember the steps if they watched someone else do it, primarily if you address some real-life concerns in the process.
4) Bring in Reinforcement
Once you’re sure that you are wisely repeating "must-know" content throughout the course, that you are chunking content smartly, and that stories are part of the equation, follow-up exercises will be the key.
Without follow-up, more than half of the information will be forgotten. Which means that not only is the time and money that you invested in the project a loss, but the employee’s efforts are as well.
What you do after your lessons will be as important as the lesson itself.
Think about how you have learned over the years. Part of learning how to drive is to apply what you’ve learned. Part of learning a new language is constant application after the information has been given to you.
Follow-ups could include quick exercises, mobile reminders, mini quizzes, or discussions with a supervisor, or colleague. The closer it is to when the learning experience happened, the better, as details fade as time passes. The brain will assume it isn't useful enough and drop it. What many eLearning designers fail to understand is that the follow-up is almost as essential to the learning itself.
Also, quiz results might help shed some light on which of the topics or lessons are not getting far with your learners. Don’t let the investment go to waste, use this so you can improve your training and get those results!
Learning decay can’t be approached as an add-on. This is a real and valid factor in your employee’s learning experience. You’ve made a huge investment in creating a good training program that will educate your learners and improve your business. You’ve brought your learners this far. Don’t fail them now!