5 Tips To Succeed In Instructional Design For Spaced eLearning
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Instructional Design For Spaced eLearning: 5 Useful Tips For eLearning Professionals

The brain will only store information in its long-term memory banks by repeating and reinforcing it. This means that online learners need to explore the subject matter on numerous occasions to actually remember the key ideas and concepts. As time goes on, the information gradually subsides and is replaced by new knowledge… unless you take a Spaced eLearning approach. According to the Spaced Learning theory, which was first introduced by Paul Kelley, individuals are more likely to remember if they learn in short bursts with breaks in between. In this article, you will learn about the 3 benefits of Spaced eLearning as well as 5 tips that can help you apply it in your instructional design.

3 Benefits Of Spaced eLearning

1. Improves Knowledge Retention

One of the many facets of Spaced eLearning is active recall. Instead of passively reviewing the information or listening to a lecture, online learners are encouraged to interact with the subject matter and apply it. For example, they may have to use the information to solve a common problem or build a skill by participating in an eLearning simulation. These active recall exercises improve knowledge retention because they strengthen mental pathways. Online learners can tie new ideas to preexisting knowledge and see the connection between interrelated concepts.

2. Stresses Real World Applications

Spaced eLearning is most effective when it involves a good variety of presentation methods. For instance, a single concept might be conveyed through an eLearning simulation, serious game, and eLearning video. Thus, online learners have ample opportunity to see how knowledge applies in the real world, as well as its benefits. They must also put the ideas into practice, which gives them the chance to determine how they can use it on a personal level. It's not just a concept that you need them to learn, but a concept that they need in order to achieve their goals.

3. Reduces Cognitive Overload

The mind can only take so much at any given time. When an abundance of information is flying at us we tend to shut down for self-preservation purposes. Spaced eLearning helps to reduce cognitive overload by giving our mind a break and allowing it to assimilate the information. Online learners have the opportunity to absorb the eLearning content before they move onto the next eLearning activity. Another way to deter cognitive overload is to focus on one goal or objective at a time, instead of trying to barrage your online learners with multiple eLearning concepts to save time.

5 Tips To Apply Spaced eLearning In Instructional Design

1. Use Memory Aids To Improve Knowledge Retention

Memory aids improve knowledge retention and enhance the effects of your Spaced eLearning strategy. You can use them as an eLearning activity in your eLearning course design or as a stand-alone online support tool. For example, online learners can use eLearning flashcards, self-made summaries and mind maps to refresh their memory. Make sure that your memory aids are bite-sizedpreferably five minutes or under, so that online learners can access them anytime, especially during their "moment of need".

2. Build On Preexisting Knowledge

Online learners must be able to form a connection between new ideas and preexisting knowledge to strengthen their mental pathways. The brain always tries to find new and inventive ways to save time and energy. If it has to learn a new concept from scratch, it has to weigh whether the subject matter is really worth remembering. However, it will spring into action if it can relate the new information to knowledge that it's already stored. Real world stories, examples, eLearning simulations, and branching scenarios are all ideal Spaced eLearning activities that can build up mental schema.

3. Encourage Online Learners To Apply And Actively Recall Knowledge

Ask compelling questions, encourage online learners to solve a problem using new information, or create an eLearning group activity that goes beyond basic summaries. These are all eLearning activities that require active recall and require online learners to apply what they've learned. For example, instead of relying on recaps at the end of the eLearning module, ask your online learners to put the information into their own words by creating an online presentation. This gives you an accurate way to track their progress and proficiency, and allows them to reinforce their knowledge.

4. Integrate Study Breaks Into The eLearning Course Design

A Spaced eLearning strategy is not complete without regular study breaks. The traditional formula is 3 eLearning sessions with 10-minute breaks in between, but you can customize this based on the subject matter. For example, more complex topics may require a longer break in between to improve comprehension. Include timed breaks in your eLearning course design so that online learners are required to pause and do something different in between eLearning modules and activities that cover the same learning objective. Even self-guided online learners who are going at their own pace should take a breather before moving on.

5. Put A New Spin On Old Information

Some Spaced Learning proponents believe that it's all about repetition, but it doesn't really matter what form that repetition takes. However, reviewing the same information in the same way repeatedly can get boring and tedious for your online learners. For this reason, it's wise to mix things up a bit and provide a broad range of eLearning activities. For example, you can cover a topic in an eLearning simulation, tutorial, or eLearning video. It's the same information, but from a different perspective.

Spaced eLearning can be used in any eLearning course design and particularly when dealing with complex subject matter. You have the opportunity to chunk complicated topics into easily digestible modules that are reinforced over time. Thus, your online learners can revisit the key takeaways on a continual basis and commit the information to long-term memory.

Knowledge retention is the primary goal of Spaced elearning. But does practice really make perfect? Read the article Practice Makes Perfect: 6 Tips To Improve Knowledge Retention In eLearning to discover how to improve long-term retention in your next eLearning course.

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