4 Facts And 2 Myths You Should Know To Improve Knowledge Retention In Online Training

4 Facts And 2 Myths You Should Know To Improve Knowledge Retention In Online Training
Summary: Knowledge retention is a subject that has been researched a lot by experts in many fields. Online facilitators are constantly trying to come up with new methods to make learning stick with their online learners. In this article, I’ll present 4 facts and 2 myths you should know to improve knowledge retention in online training.

Important Information You Should Know To Improve Knowledge Retention In Online Training

Investing in online training is not something that you do once and you are then free to go for life. Online learners can easily forget previously acquired information. As a result, the need arises to apply techniques that improve knowledge retention and battle the forgetting curve.

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Facts You Should Know To Improve Knowledge Retention

Educating yourself on some facts can help you improve knowledge retention through the creation of online training courses that adhere to certain principles.

1. Training Program Objectives

What are we trying to achieve with our online training programs? I bet no one said that the goal of training was to waste money or time. Unfortunately for many traditional online training programs that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. There are lots of statistics out there but we are spending somewhere between 60 and 160 billion dollars on formal training today as an industry.

Here is a  dirty little secret. We also know that 70% of what employees are learning in our formal training programs is forgotten one day after the training is completed! And research also shows that this number increases to 90% being forgotten within 30 days of training. It’s also a fact that employees today are overwhelmed and distracted and have short attention spans. In fact, the average employee is only able to focus on one thing for about 3 minutes on average. Classroom training is by far still the number one way we deliver employee training. It's a fallacy to think it covers most of what employees need to learn in order to do their job.

Research says we cover 10-20% of the knowledge and skills needed. And what we cover is taught days or weeks before or after its needed! So, how can we make training more efficient so that the skills learned are retained over time?

2. The Forgetting Curve

The research here isn’t exactly new. In 1885, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus developed the forgetting curve. His studies showed how information is lost over a period of time where there is no attempt to retrieve it. In other words, use it or lose it. The brain uses this simple algorithm to decide what information to keep and what information to discard. For example, when you learn a new process at work and use it again the same day, then the next week and so on, the brain says “this is important, I better keep it!” Conversely, if you attend a conference but don’t use the information until two weeks later, your brain most likely will have discarded what you learned. The minute you stop learning you start forgetting. Again, use it or lose it. The Forgetting Curve constitutes an important theory you should consider to improve knowledge retention.

3. Outcome Improvement Through Use Of Science

Professor, author and consultant Art Kohn stated that “No matter how much you invest into training and development, nearly everything you teach to your employees will be forgotten. Indeed, although corporations spend billions of dollars a year on training, this investment is like pumping gas into a car that has a hole in the tank. All of your hard work simply drains away.” The good news here is that we can use science to improve the outcomes of our workplace learning. Virtually every other profession uses science to improve their results.

For example, architects use the proven principles of physics and match to design buildings that will function safely and last decades or even centuries. Architecture is often described as being an art form, but it is the science behind that art that makes it work!

4. How We Learn

The first thing we need to understand, even if only at a high level, is how we as people process information and learn new things. We don’t need a degree in neuroscience here to understand a few important concepts. First, information comes at us and we process it first through an encoding process in our short-term memory, which has a limited capacity. In fact, the cognitive load theory states that we can only process 5 to 9 bits at a time. Some bits of information stay in our short-term memory and others are quickly forgotten.

Consolidation is another key learning process. Scientists believe the brain replays or rehearses the new information, looking for connections to existing information. The brain also searches for a context in which to keep or make information meaningful. This process of consolidation help us to retain more of the important stuff or stuff that is closely related to other important information.

Another key learning process is retrieval. Researchers believe that forced retrieval is most effective after time has passed after the initial learning and some forgetting has occurred. The bottom line here is our brain needs to work to “secure” the learning for easier retrieval later.

Myths You Should Know To Improve Knowledge Retention

Knowing what the facts are is definitely important. However, what helps eLearning professionals create online training programs that improve knowledge retention is to know what the myths are about knowledge retention.

1. “Forgetting Is The Failure Of Memory”

This is just not true. Neuroscientists say that forgetting is adaptive. We live in a fast-paced, busy world that is constantly feeding us new information. Television, news, media and advertisements are all around us every second of the day. In response, the brain appropriately filters out information that is no longer being used, and that is no longer important. Forgetting is not a failure of memory. On the contrary, it is a fundamental part of the entire memory system. It is an active, normal and desirable component that helps us learn what really matters and forget what doesn’t.

2. “If The Information Is Relevant, I Will Remember It”

In school, many of us studied for tests by re-reading the chapters in the textbook or reviewing the material over and over and by going over our notes. Unfortunately, recent research has proven this to not be an effective study method.

Knowing all those facts and myths can help you focus on principles to implement or things to avoid in your effort to improve knowledge retention in online training.

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