It turns out – surprise, surprise – that cramming might not be the best learning strategy, after all. Advocates of “spaced learning” maintain that optimal learning occurs when it is spread or spaced out over a period of time. Golf instructors and baseball coaches have used spaced learning for years, and now it’s making its way to corporate America, where HR and L&D teams are incorporating it into their employee training programs.
Spaced learning makes it more likely that your employees will internalize and retain knowledge, transform it into a skill, and apply it on behalf of your organization. Spaced repetition learning is based on the way the mind works. While we can pick up facts in no time at all, real learning is best understood as a longer-term process that occurs over time through repetition; employees need space and the passage of time to let information marinate, to review and refresh their knowledge, and to have the opportunity to apply it in a real-world situation.
Spaced Learning Theory
Why is spaced learning so effective in bolstering memory and recall? One theory, according to neuroscientists, is that when information is received in different contexts, it is more likely to be recalled after a period of delay. Now, consider how traditional training scenarios involve information dumps conducted in one long session, often lasting hours.
Instead, as you space out your learning, try presenting information to employees in different contexts over a more extended period of time. Vary the tools and environment: a classroom, instructor-led training one time, followed by a video or PowerPoint, or an eLearning game to reinforce the learning.
Another theory is that, as education is spaced out over time, greater forgetting occurs, which makes it more difficult to retrieve the information. The mind essentially has to rebuild the knowledge base – and as it does so, it becomes more firmly embedded in the memory. It may sound counterintuitive, but letting a little bit of forgetting set in can actually improve memory retention long-term.
Key Benefits of Spaced Learning
The benefits of spaced learning include enhanced memory retention and recall, as well as higher engagement and performance among employees. The spaced learning method can be highly empowering for employees and can be regarded as part of the more significant movement in HR towards employee-driven training.
Employers who invest in employee training may sometimes voice concerns about return on investment. You can explain that spaced learning motivates employees not just to learn new skills but apply them on behalf of the organization. The company, then, is able to see firsthand its ROI in action.
Incorporating Spaced LearningTechniques into Training
If your training department would like to adopt a spaced learning approach, here are some tips to help you along the way:
No More Cramming
If you want employees to memorize and retain critical information, space it out. Having them simply repeat the same points in rapid succession over and over again won’t be as successful as giving them a break and then, a few hours later, reviewing it again. In other words, think three or four exposures over a more extended period of time as opposed to one massive cram session.
Spaced repetition learning systems – like an LMS – offer everything you need to get started down the spaced learning path, including video capabilities, first-rate authoring tools, automated quizzes, social learning, and gamification elements like points, rewards, and a leaderboard. Increasingly used by L&D teams to motivate and reinforce learning, gamification elements are usually built into learning management systems. Check to make sure!
Use Quizzes and Testing for Reinforcement
Frequent repetition is essential for retention, especially if the content is technical or complex. However, according to memory research, the practice of quizzing yourself is a more effective way to retrieve stored information than blindly re-reading the same passage ten times.
Apply, Apply, Apply!
Instead of overwhelming them with a 15-hour block, spaced repetition learning gives your employees time to grow, adapt, and apply their learning. Creating scenarios for practical application of key learning concepts is one of the most effective ways to engage your employees while reinforcing and deepening their knowledge base. Once they’ve applied their learning, they are more likely to retain it and build on it. Use quizzes and tests, as well as real-world scenarios and simulations, to encourage application.
Help Trainers Adjust
Some trainers may prefer the status quo. It may be that they are used to spending all of their time on one topic and one lesson. It is crucial for them to realize that the spaced learning approach doesn’t mean they will be spending more time on a given project; it just means spacing out the learning into separate bytes that are easier to absorb, remember, and apply.
How Can World Manager Help?
Spaced learning is changing the way companies think about learning and development. The easy way to introduce spaced learning to your organization is by investing in a learning management system.
Some of the most respected organizations in the world choose service-oriented World Manager because we’ve been delivering online training solutions for over ten years. You can trust World Manager to help streamline and supercharge your organization’s employee training.