How To Implement Retrieval-Based Learning
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How To Implement Retrieval-Based Learning

There are a number of instructional strategies that can work wonders for modern digital learning programs but, unfortunately, they are not used by corporate organizations as much as they should be. Retrieval-based learning is one such strategy. Retrieval-based learning works by assessing learning gaps in a learner’s memory and filling them with repeated exercise. You see, a number of corporate organizations do not develop skills in employees for long-term retention. They assess learners after they’ve completed a digital learning course when the content is still fresh in their minds, but not after that. As a result, learners struggle to recall skills and information at the time of need. Although, with the rise of microlearning modules learners can look up a skill Just-In-Time and apply it, however, such dependence is not the mark of effective learning.

1. Provide Repeated Assessments Spaced Apart

As mentioned before, just assessing knowledge and skills after the completion of a digital learning course isn’t enough. Assessments must be placed at regular intervals, for example, one assessment after a week, another after a month, and another after three months. Doing this enhances metacognition, thus enhancing learning and long-term retention. Instructional Designers must also make sure that learners are given the choice of which digital learning courses they want to repeat or re-study to generate authentic interest. By giving them control you let them choose the problem they want to solve themselves.

2. Use Real-World Scenarios

Context is very important in retrieval-based learning. Provide learners with real-world scenarios in the digital learning courses they consume, and they’ll be able to apply the learned skills or knowledge in an actual situation similar to the one in the scenario. Because the context is the same in both the scenario as well as an actual situation, it lets the learners retrieve the skills and/or knowledge, reconstruct them to suit the actual situation and apply them to have the same effect. Digital learning designers can create avatars and have learners perform tasks as the avatars in the scenarios to influence their behavior outside of the virtual scenario (i.e. the real world).

3. Provide Learners With Multiple Self-Checks And Reinforcement Exercises

As mentioned before, retrieval requires regular reinforcement. But just providing assessments at regular intervals is not enough. Learners need repeated recall to increase long-term retention of skills and knowledge, and that requires learners to be self-directed. An organization cannot force self-checks onto learners but can notify them at regular intervals to check their own knowledge themselves on their smartphones. The L&D team can also send microlearning modules (which are 3-5 minutes long) to learners/employees on their smartphones to reinforce the skills and knowledge learned in the digital learning courses. Also, make sure that all learning material, as well as the courses, are available on a learning portal or reservoir which can be accessed by the learners on every type of device, including personal computers, laptops, smartphones and/or tablets.

4. Encourage Group Discussions About Skills And Knowledge Developed

Ensure that your employees have a forum, a social media page or a virtual space of some sort where they can discuss what they are learning with each other. Also, encourage employees to talk about your digital learning program and the skills and knowledge they’ve learned with each other, with their seniors as well as the L&D team. This creates a learning culture that ensures that knowledge and skills are retrieved and refreshed with every discussion.

5. Convert Existing Learning Activities Into Retrieval-Based Learning Activities

Try to use as many retrieval-based learning activities in your course as possible, such as questionnaires and quizzes. Convert existing learning activities into retrieval-based learning activities by including the element of recall into them. For example, an explainer video that demonstrates how to perform a task step-by-step must be followed by questions or a simulation that allows learners to perform the said task.

It is evident that retrieval practice is a powerful way to improve memory and, ultimately, meet the objectives of your digital learning courses. Following the above mentioned points will ensure that your employees can recall skills and knowledge long after they’ve consumed the courses in question.

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