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Tim Buff


Chief Learning Strategist

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4 Ways to Minimise the Forgetting Curve


Decreasing the forgetting curve should be a key objective for all learning programmes, be that eLearning, mobile learning or classroom based learning.

When considering how to create a learning programme that minimises the forgetting curve, you should consider the following points:

1. Preparation before learning

With any eLearning, classroom or blended learning programme your learner may need pre-learning content to study. Determine exactly what this and be precise. Don’t overload the learner or have pre-learning content that duplicates course content as the student will be bored by repetition. Also don’t present course and preparatory content at once as the learner may assume there is no need to look at both. I find it a good idea to tell learners that there will be a review of any pre-course materials in the form of questions or a group discussion.

2. Personal Discovery

Discovery learning is a great way to increase learning retention. Discovery learning is driven by the user, but you have to design in the opportunities for the learner to do it. So, where you can, add research options to your content highlighted by links; ‘click here for more information’, ‘see more here’.

Linking out has some dangers. Your learner may find the internet more interesting than the course. Lessen these potential pitfalls by having links open in different windows (so the course always remains open), in browsers that don’t have an address bar to prevent further browsing or suggest or impose a time limit for viewing outside sources.

3. Give learners assessment and knowledge check feedback

This is vital. If you don’t ask learners questions, how can you know how much information they have retained? Assessments can be in the form of knowledge checks or certification and accreditation exams, tracked and maintained in a learning management system (LMS). Here I’m going to examine knowledge checks which encourage, rather than test, knowledge retention.

In moderated, classroom environments, we can assume that the course leader provides on-going assessment of learning through things such as questions or discussion topics.

This is not the case in self-study eLearning or mobile learning courses. Here, the designer needs to build in assessments. Always include knowledge checks in your courses as questions, games or social media topics.

Knowledge checks allow the learner to assess their own understanding and retention of the course content. Always give the learner feedback. For example, if they answer a question right tell them ‘well done’ and maybe supply an implicit reward by supplying a link to more content – kind of saying, ‘you’ve done great, you’re ready for this now’!

If they supply an incorrect answer let them know they’re wrong and supply them the correct answer (a subtle and effective form of repetition), you might also consider providing a link so they can easily go back and review the content.

4. Post-Event Learning

Some educators suggest the dangers of the forgetting curve can be lessened by providing revision sessions or extra information to help keep learning retained in memory. But to be honest, can you see a learner reviewing everything learnt in a course on a regular basis?

Of course, post-course reinforcement can aid knowledge retention to some degree, but it has to be attractive to learners who may feel ‘yeah, done that already’. Get round this reluctance by providing related, but new content that links clearly with what they’ve already learnt and consider encouraging learners to discuss and interact with each other about the topic.

You could also expand course-related discussion into a more social domain, with the aim of creating a self-sustaining learning community based on Twitter or Facebook etc.

Finally (outside of LMS supported eLearning or mobile learning) you could set up a moderated revision area, with a teacher or mentor to help and advise learners. Whilst relatively easy in the education field (universities and colleges) it can be expensive for businesses, though it is a great way to build a philosophy of life-long learning.

Author Profile Picture
Tim Buff

Chief Learning Strategist

Read more from Tim Buff

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