SHIFT's eLearning Blog

Our blog provides the best practices, tips, and inspiration for corporate training, instructional design, eLearning and mLearning.

To visit the Spanish blog, click here
All Posts

How to Design eLearning Programs with Spacing In Mind

The world of work has changed significantly since 2020. The need to constantly learn and relearn has grown is growing at an accelerated speed. In this context, it is inadmissible to waste time designing eLearning courses that are not generating the expected results.

Take a moment and reflect: Have you ever wondered why your employees don't remember what they learn in your eLearning courses? 

One of the most frequent causes is the excess of information included in a course, added to the lack of practice and/or evaluations. Neuroscience research says that an overwhelming amount of information at one time can be too difficult to grasp and retain, especially for new employees undergoing training (a phenomenon known as a cognitive overload). Therefore, an eLearning course must be designed to facilitate learning so that knowledge can be retained in the long term.

In this article, we share with you some useful secrets so that your students do not forget what they learned in your courses.

First, let's understand this phenomenon a little more: Why do we forget what we learn?

According to a Practical Psychology report on the Rate of Forgetting, most forgetting occurs within the first hour of learning. And that's not all: After a day or two, it's normal to forget about 75% of what you've learned. The main reason for this to happen is that the human brain cannot retain all the information by learning only once. Lack of practice or opportunities to apply what has been learned are also crucial factors. On the other hand, the speed with which a person forgets depends on a few variables, such as the memory's capacity of retaining, how attractive the content is, and various physiological factors such as stress. This means that, if we as eLearning designers take all this into consideration, we could slow down the forgetting curve (and therefore retain what students learn for longer).

Recommended read: These Are The Reasons Why Learners Forget Your Training

What type of action can we take? This is where we want to get to.

What is Spaced Learning and Why is it Relevant Today?

The concept of spaced learning is not new. Back in 1885, German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus presented the Forgetting Curve and introduced the spacing effect. “According to the Forgetting Curve, the learnings are forgotten over time in the absence of any attempt to reinforce them.”

According to ATD: "If you are designing a learning program with spacing in mind, you will present learners with a concept or learning objective, allow a period of time to pass (days, weeks, or months) and then present the same concept again. This might involve a few repetitions, or many, depending on how complex the content is. Similarly, the intervals between repetitions might be adjusted depending on the content and the audience."

Microlearning is an ideal and proven vehicle for spaced repetition. A spaced learning system gives organizations the ability to deliver training and information to their employees in small, digestible chunks of information over time, not all at once as is usually done. Thus, students are more likely to retain the information taught in a course.

Also read: 

Decode the Science of Forgetting: How to Create Memorable eLearning [Part I]

Decode the Science of Forgetting: How to Create Memorable eLearning [Part II]


There are several ways to help your learners challenge the Forgetting Curve and implement spaced learning in your company. Here are some quick tips:

Tip #1) Drip Content

Imagine that you have to tell a story. You could start with a short introduction to grab attention, and then gradually drip small bits of information to gain and hold your audience's interest.

That is what one of the most used strategies today is about: Dripping content, or in other words, scheduling the delivery of content in stages instead of all at once.

This way, you can slow down or speed up the process of sending the information to help control the time and flow and generate curiosity.

You can even save time by taking advantage of automation so your course segments always arrive at the right time.

Let's see a practical case. If you decide to use an application like SHIFT Deploy, you will be able to define a spaced learning strategy and deliver the exact content at the time you want it to be available. You will also be able to configure the delivery schedule in one go so that the lessons are delivered automatically.

Tip #2) Create a Solid "Content Refreshing" Strategy After the Course is Over

Knowledge retention is the ultimate goal, right? Therefore, once the course is completed it is essential that you push small refresher courses and send notifications to your students. Take note: For this strategy to be successful, you need to have a clear mapped-out strategy.

This is especially useful if you need to train people on a new skill that is only used periodically, as they might forget important items in the meantime. Think about how you can offer these "reminders" in different formats at various times after the course is completed, thus curbing the Forgetting Curve. One strategy that really works is to create reinforcement activities that are compatible with mobile devices, as spaced learning in online training is best when it's convenient and portable.

Think of it this way: Do you want your employees to sit in a training room for an hour while they complete their spaced learning cycles, or do you want them to do their work tasks between each online activity? Giving them the opportunity to be on the job allows them to better absorb and retain information.

For this reason, reinforcement activities compatible with mobile devices are great allies for learning retention. They can be scenarios, simulations, evaluations, and online games. This way, you can ensure your students get the online training they need, anytime, anywhere.

Recommended reads:

Is Your Company Embracing Just-in-Time Learning?

Start Thinking of Micro Learning Moments Now

New call-to-action

3) Encourage Practice and Content Integration

Spaced repetition helps retention, yes. But spaced practice works even better!

Instead of just passively re-exposing your students to your content (by having them read it again or watch a video that just repeats information), ask them to actively recall the content. You will see that this way they generate stronger retention.

How to achieve this? Offering your students multiple opportunities to put their new knowledge into practice. For example, have them apply the information learned by answering questions or using it in a short case study or assessment. This way, students will have the opportunity to remember and actually APPLY what they have learned.

To effectively space learning over time, do not forget:

  • Always include questions based on the current lesson and previous lessons.
  • Use a variety of assessment formats so your students can think about the same information in different ways. Some forms of assessment may be true/false, fill-in-the-blank, open-ended, and scenario-based.

Also read: 6 Ways to Assess Your Students in eLearning


4)Use AI to Personalize the Learning Experience 

There are many options for delivering content to your students each of the times during the "spaced learning" process. You might want to send micro-content based on weekly challenges, always taking into account the level reached by each user. You might also want to let students play around with the content more freely, unlocking the next challenge or level as they go.

But this is where you can use a much more efficient approach: Using ArtificiaI Intelligence to track your students' scores and behaviors. If you know someone is having trouble with a specific section, automate to send them an additional challenge or set of examples to help them through that specific part of the course. You can also do this but the opposite way: If the system detects that someone is an expert on the subject, recommend a more complex challenge.

Also read: How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming the eLearning Industry

You can start designing eLearning programs with spacing in mind today. By following these simple tips you can start creating impactful results! 

Also read: 

You have at your fingertips the necessary tools to make your courses an unforgettable experience and really useful for your students. We can guide you on this journey to maximize the results of your courses. If you want to boost training results in your company in 2022, try SHIFT.

Contact our microlearning experts today and find out how to get started.

New call-to-action


Related Posts

A List of Brain-based Strategies to Create Effective eLearning

There is a simple way to design effective eLearning courses about any subject: brain-based learning. This instructional approach was defined by Hileman in 2006 and has since inspired many “brain-compatible designers” — those who seek to understand the principle and reasoning behind their teaching.

  • 14 min read
  • Thu, May 26, 2022 @ 01:11 PM

The 4 Adult Learning Elements You Should Include in Your eLearning Courses

Adult Learning highlights that adult learners are fundamentally different in their methods of learning in comparison with children. As an L&D professional, you need to understand these differences and figure out the best ways to apply them to meet your learner's needs. With adult learners, you will encounter unique expectations, demands, and challenges. The key is to accommodate these and design training and eLearning courses in a manner that is most effective and engaging for them. While there are multiple methodologies to make this happen, there is a model proposed by Lila Davachi, Associate Professor of Psychology at New York University that is known to be effective. Known as AGES (Attention-Generation-Emotion-Spacing), this model highlights four key elements that are essential for effective adult learning to happen. 

  • 9 min read
  • Fri, May 20, 2022 @ 01:51 PM

The Key Principles of High-Quality Instructional Design

The quality of instructional design is often gauged on three things: effectiveness, efficiency, and cost.  Effectiveness has to do with how well the instruction enables learners to achieve stated goals or expected outcomes. Efficiency deals with the energy and time invested to complete the instruction while cost covers all expenses incurred for its design and delivery.  These are good points, to begin with. It's equally important, however, to zero in on the details involving the design and development of quality instruction. As with any other good design principles, there are human characteristics deeply involved here.  Richard Buchanan, a professor of Design, Management, and Information Systems, said it best: “a good design can be defined not only to be creative, stylish with an extraordinary visual look, but it must consider human engagement in its activities.” Follow these five golden principles to help you achieve high-quality instructional design:

  • 8 min read
  • Wed, May 18, 2022 @ 05:55 PM