How to Boost Knowledge Retention in eLearners

Published: 26th October 2020

No matter which teaching method is used, learner’s knowledge retention remains a challenge for many teachers. Online learning offers many benefits, from easy access to digital resources to personal time management, but it can still prove challenging for learners to retain the learning content when it’s time to apply their knowledge.

The challenge of retaining information lies with the student, however, engaging content with clear learning objectives and attention-grabbing material, will help. Try out these ten tactics to create memorable courses:

1. Tell A Story

Ideas wrapped up in an emotional layer are more likely to be remembered, as humans are inclined to attach meaning and importance to things they can relate to. Storytelling is a powerful vehicle for creating emotional connections.

Scientists look to storytelling to communicate scientific concepts to mass audiences, as narratives have been linked to increased recall, ease of comprehension, and shorter reading times. A study on digital storytelling also produced results showing that this medium increases motivation and academic achievement, and contributes to permanent learning.

Treat stories as more relatable examples when integrating them in your eLearning courses. Craft narratives that reflect what your learners go through.

2. Be Relevant

Any input will not stay long in someone’s mind if it’s not practiced or applied in real life. Regardless of how visually-appealing your courses are, if it’s not relevant to the learner, they will quickly forget its content.

To create engaging courses, make sure that don’t lose sight of the target audience. Is the course content right for them? Will they need to apply the knowledge? Does it meet the learning objective?

3. Illustrate Concepts with Diagrams

Plain text can only do so much when trying to explain complex concepts. Even the most straightforward phrasing for multi-layered systems can be hard to recall once the training session is over.

Help your learners comprehend complicated notions with diagrams. Charts and graphs also are useful for comparing and contrasting data. Visual elements make it far easier for the brain to connect facts and processes.

With an illustrated lecture, recall ability is at 80% after 3 hours and 65% after 3 days. In comparison, purely written lectures translate to a recall ability of 72% after 3 hours and just 10% after 3 days.

4. Use Unique Multimedia

As effective as charts and graphs may be, they also have a limit to how much they can boost knowledge retention. We have been seeing these visualisation types since our childhood in all manner of configurations, so they don’t always have the impact that they used to when we were first introduced to them.

A Harvard experiment found that unique visualisations types like grids, matrices, trees, and networks are, overall, the most memorable format when it comes to understanding data.
Break up the monotony of your courses using these more intricate diagrams. Weave in striking images between multiple paragraphs. If you have the resources, bring words and pictures together with an eye-catching infographic.

5. Highlight Points with Warm Colours

Colour psychology dictates that human behaviour is affected in different ways from seeing certain colours. For example, green is supposed to be relaxing, blue is supposed to help with thinking clearly, and purple helps stir creativity.

Colour’s effects on the brain extends to our memory. Colour increases our level of attention, and this results in helping us memorise certain information. The colours that best affect our attention are yellow, red, and orange. Underscore the most important points in your courses with these warm colours, and you can expect learners to remember those points for longer and in greater detail.

Apart from enhancing attention levels through colour, your brand’s colours should also be taken into consideration. You can even use the same colour palette that your brand uses if they are in accordance with colour psychology.

6. Break Down Content

The more information your learners have to absorb in one session, the more likely they are to forget. The brain can only take on so much cognitive load before it gets too burdened and fails to retain what it’s trying to process.

Break down long pieces of content into smaller, bite-sized chunks. If relevant information is grouped together, learners are more likely to retain the information. Group relevant info together so that learners can more easily organise such data in their heads.

Applying this technique also builds the healthy practice of eliminating filler from your courses. Text becomes more concise, images are more impactful, and courses become more memorable.

7. Ask Learners to Summarise

You can find out how much learners understand a subject when you ask them to repeat all the important information in their own words. If they can summarise a subject without missing key facts or getting a process wrong, that’s when you can tell they have a firm grasp on what they have just been taught.

Have your learners try and create a bullet point list summarising the courses they take as soon as they are done. They can internalise lessons through this process, which helps retain knowledge. If they make mistakes or forget a crucial concept, you can use that data for performance assessment and course improvement.

8. Assess in Intervals

You can take one step further with assessments to help improve knowledge retention by doing them at the start of a course and also after each lesson.

Having a diagnostic assessment before beginning a course is a good way of establishing a baseline. From this baseline, learners can clearly see how much progress they make in comparison to the assessments they take in the middle of a course. They can also use this as an opportunity to work on any possible weaknesses before they move forward with a course.

9. Test with Simulations

With assessments, you ultimately want your learners to be put into scenarios that reflect real-life situations. By presenting abstract, hard to grasp concepts in a way learners can directly relate to, aids to the understanding of more difficult topics. Simulations provide the critical context that demonstrates to learners the practical application of whatever lesson they are being taught.

It has been observed that retention is 9% higher for trainees taught with simulation games compared to those who were taught with other instruction methods. Not only do learners find such lessons more memorable, they also get direct feedback. The immediate positive and negative responses in simulations can lead to learners correcting themselves quickly and getting much needed positive reinforcement.

10. Space Out Repetition

Repetition is an integral part of learning. Whether it’s performing physical feats over and over to build muscle memory or practicing a mental skill regularly to commit it to memory, repetition is a tried and tested method for retention.

What is even better than repetition done en masse is when repetition is spaced out over time. According to a Dartmouth study, spaced practice enhances memory, problem solving, and transfer of learning to new contexts.

Remember this when developing your eLearning courses. Integrate repetition with the other principles such as using diagrams and multimedia. Repeat key points in different formats to keep them fresh in learners’ minds.

11. Spread Out Examples

Examples make concepts easier to understand. They show similarities and differences between multiple concepts, and can connect an idea that learners are unfamiliar with to something learners can recognise.

To aid with knowledge retention, use relatable situations as examples when creating eLearning courses. Pair them up with facts and explanations. These can be as simple as pictures or as in-depth as case studies.

Enhancing Memory by Stimulating the Mind

From pattern deviation to active participation, all these knowledge retention tactics keep the mind engaged. You want to avoid lulling your learners into predictable progression sequences. By varying how your courses are designed, learners experience an ebb and flow of stimulation, which makes for exciting and unforgettable lessons.

If you need help with creative course ideas and execution, contact Wahoo Learning. We have plenty of experience designing and delivering innovative, interactive, and immersive learning content tailored to specific audiences. Schedule a demo with us today.

The author - Lloyd Smith

The author - Lloyd Smith

Lloyd is the Managing Director of Wahoo Learning. He has a passion for the learning technology industry, particularly the latest innovations and technologies.

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