5 Tips For Using The Testing Effect In eLearning

Memory is everything in eLearning; more specifically, long-term memory.  The measure of success for any eLearning course is whether online learners are truly able to retain, recall, and apply what they have learned. But how do you do ensure that the subject matter isn’t forgotten while it’s still stuck in their short-term memory?  In this article, I’ll discuss how to use the Testing Effect in eLearning, so that you can create eLearning experiences they are sure to remember. 
5 Tips For Using The Testing Effect In eLearning

How To Use The Testing Effect In eLearning: 5 Tips For eLearning Professionals

The Testing Effect, also known as test-enhanced learning, is a psychological principle that centers on the idea that simply by testing a learner’s memory will make the memory stronger. It is often referred to as a "retrieval practice", as a portion of the learning process is devoted to knowledge retrieval and review of already presented information. Feedback is not required in this approach. The key, however, is that online learners must be able to actively recall the information to reinforce it in the long-term memory. Here are 5 tips that can help you apply the Testing Effect in your eLearning course design.

  1. Timing is everything. 
    There is a "goldilocks zone" when it comes to the testing effect that all eLearning professionals should consider. If you test too early then you aren't really able to determine if learners have retained the concepts, as they just learned them and the information is still fresh in their memory. Testing too late, on the other hand, reduces the likelihood that they will remember any of the information, due to the fact that too much time has passed. This is why it's best to test them just a few days after they have learned new information, preferably within a week. In fact, you may even want to tap into the power of repetition by testing them on several occasions. This helps you stay on top of the "forgetting curve" and gives your online learners the opportunity to review the information just in time and on an ongoing basis.
  2. Offer the ideal amount of difficulty. 
    The same goldilocks principle applies to the difficulty of the testing. If you make your tests too challenging your online learners won't be able to recall the necessary information and may become frustrated. If you make them too easy, they simply won't transfer the knowledge to long-term memory because it hasn't left an indelible mark yet. For this very reason, your testing needs to offer the perfect amount of challenge so that your online learners can retain and recall what they need to know. Ask a select group of online learners to participate in the testing process before you include it in your eLearning course design. Get their feedback to determine if you need to increase the difficulty level or make it easier.
  3. Use positive reinforcement to improve information recall. 
    Learners are more likely to remember information when it's tied to a favorable eLearning experience, such as when they receive praise. Thus, you can use positive reinforcement to improve knowledge retention and recall. For example, congratulating an employee when they perform well on a test might be just the motivation and reinforcement they need to continue that performance when they take tests in the future. They want to receive that same praise, so their minds will remember the information in order to achieve the desired outcome. Just make sure that the reinforcement is personalized, instead of offering a general "congrats" or "great work" to every member of your audience.
  4. Make your eLearning recaps interactive. 
    Your online learners must be able to actively retrieve the information in order to move it to their long-term memory banks. If they are merely passive observers who are going through the motions by reading summaries and checking boxes, then they aren't going to remember what they've learned as effectively. However, if you give them the opportunity to interact directly with the eLearning content and make it their own, chances are they will retain every idea and concept. Essentially, the primary goals is to force their memories to remember the eLearning content by challenging it. Immerse them in online scenarios and simulations that encourage them to apply what they have learned. Make your eLearning experiences tactile by integrating point-and-click eLearning games or online tutorials. Offer them the chance to actively recall and retrieve by asking them to recap the key takeaways of the eLearning course.
  5. Add the element of pressure, in moderation. 
    Pressure typically has a negative connotation. We associate it with an abundance of stress. Thus, we avoid it all costs. However, a small amount of pressure can actually help you to remember and recall information. A perfect example of this is the emotional and psychological effects of taking a multiple-choice test versus having to write an essay on the topic. Online learners who complete the multiple-choice test may have guessed many of the answers, but those who take the essay-based exam must actively recall the information. They must put it into their own words after retrieving it from their long-term memory. Guessing is simply not an option. This is why a certain level of pressure is actually ideal, as long as you stick to the golden rule: everything is best in moderation. Know what your online learner's can handle and how well they operate under stress so that you can design an online testing environment that creates just the right amount of pressure. Otherwise, you may end up causing anxiety and apprehension instead of boosting knowledge retention.

The Testing Effect can boost knowledge retention and recall by encouraging online learners to take an active role in the review process. However, this effect can also prompt them to engage and interact with every element of your eLearning course in a more profound way, as it improves their study habits and makes them more efficient online learners.

Would you like to learn more about how to develop effective testing for your online training program in a corporate environment? 7 Tips To Create Effective eLearning Assessments To Measure Online Training to discover tips for creating online assessments that can measure the success of your online training course.

 
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