8 Tips To Apply The Spacing Effect In Your eLearning Course Design
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How To Apply The Spacing Effect In Your eLearning Course Design

The spacing effect was first introduced by Hermann Ebbinghaus back in 1885. It suggests that learning is a gradual process that should be spaced out over a length of time, instead of trying to flood learners' synapses with an abundance of information all at once. As such, applied to eLearning, online learners are able to commit knowledge to long-term memory, thereby beating the forgetting curve and enhancing the benefits of the eLearning course. Here are 8 tips to use the spacing effect to your advantage in eLearning.

1. Reinforce Key Concepts With Real-World Activities

The human brain absorbs information more effectively when it's practical and contextual. In other words, when we’re able to reinforce what we've learned immediately and refresh it periodically. eLearning simulations, scenarios, and real-world examples give online learners the opportunity to put their knowledge and skills into practice. For instance, they can perform the task during an interactive simulation in order to see how each skill or step fits into the big picture. Then they can revisit the eLearning simulation from time to time to improve their performance behaviors and memory retention.

2. Use A Variety Of Delivery Methods

Carrying on with the theme of reinforcement, it's best to use a variety of different delivery methods and Instructional Design approaches. Diversity serves two vital purposes. The first is to allow online learners to explore the subject in different contexts. For example, an eLearning simulation gives them firsthand experience, while an online training tutorial enables them to see a visual demo of the task so that they can mimic favorable behaviors. The second purpose is catering to different learning preferences. All online learners can benefit from a good mix of eLearning activities, multimedia, and content delivery methods.

3. Include Summaries And Checklists

One of the core elements of the spacing effect is utilizing lists that break the information into easily digestible components. These lists and summaries also serve as valuable references that online learners can use during their "moment of need". However, you must ensure that each list focuses on a single topic, learning objective, or task. Online learners should be able to quickly refresh their memory by reviewing the key points and then putting them into action. You can also pair your summaries with data visualizations to enhance memory retention.

4. Provide Immediate eLearning Feedback And Recommendations

The important thing to remember about memory is that it has an expiration date. More specifically, an expiration time. Online learners are more likely to forget the information the further they get from the eLearning activity. For example, they can recall the key ideas and concepts 5 minutes after the online training tutorial. 5 hours later, they only remember half of what they've learned, and by day 5 it's slipped into the land of forgotten data. As a result, it's essential to provide immediate eLearning feedback and recommendations to defy the forgetting curve. Another benefit of this is correcting behaviors or cognitions before they become ingrained into memory. For instance, online learners memorize the task incorrectly and then continue to make the same mistakes for years to come.

5. Consider The Subject Matter And Online Learners' Needs

More involved or complex subject matters require more frequent reinforcement, while rudimentary knowledge tends to stay in the memory banks for longer periods of time. Likewise, online learner's background, experience level, and pre-existing knowledge play a crucial role in the spacing effect. Online learners who are well-versed on the topic may need less refreshers than those who need more guidance or support.

6. Only Offer Need-To-Know Info

There's only so much space in the working memory. Thus, you need to be choosey about what information you include in your eLearning course. For instance, those lists I mentioned earlier should only contain the essential facts, stats, and ideas to prevent cognitive overload. In addition, you need to focus on individual online learner needs, such as personal performance or knowledge gaps that impact their daily lives. Keep it practical and to the point to offer the most value to your online learners.

7. Create Bite-Sized Repositories

Microlearning online training repositories and spaced learning go hand in hand. Online learners can simply access the microlearning online training library whenever they need to rediscover the information or brush up on skills. Learning takes place when it's most convenient for them instead of adhering to a strict schedule. Therefore, online learners are able to go at their own pace and focus on their own gaps. Once again, be sure to include a good variety of multimedia and eLearning activities to cater to different learning preferences.

8. Host Live Events To Refresh Online Learners' Memories

Certain online learners may need more interactivity or individualized support, which is difficult to accomplish when you have larger online groups. Thankfully, you can use webinars to engage online learners on a personal level. Webinars serve as great memory refreshers, given that online learners can ask questions or share concerns that are hindering their progress. For example, they don't fully understand the task, or they need some help with a specific compliance topic they are struggling with since day one.

The spacing effect is supported by numerous theorists, researchers and educators. However, proving its efficacy throughout the decades has proven to be challenging. This is due to the fact that it deals with elements that are hard to quantify, such as the human memory, information processing, and, the greatest mystery of them all, the passing of time. That said, the spacing effect can help you create more effective eLearning content by reinforcing and refreshing the key concepts.

Are you looking for ways to improve knowledge retention by enhancing active recall in eLearning? Read the article 6 Ways To Enhance Active Recall In eLearning to discover 6 of the most effective ways to incorporate active recall techniques into your eLearning course design.

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