Thursday, 08 December 2016 06:08

Forgetting is Easy But So Is Reinforcement

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Learners forget 70% of what they learn over a 24-hour period, so organizations need to find ways to reinforce their training in order to realize a positive return on investment.

After budget concerns, “reinforcing training so that it sticks” is the greatest challenge faced by training and learning departments today. Indeed, “Burst and Boost” have become buzzwords in the industry, referring to best practices surrounding short-form content with heavy follow-up. This is a recognition on the part of the industry that, for training to be effective, there have to be ways to make it stick—otherwise, companies will never see a positive return on their investment.

The problem is built right into our brains: Research from Washington University in St. Louis and Harvard University found that the learning curve for just about any kind of information drops off exponentially, meaning that people will forget a full 70 percent of what they learn after a mere 24 hours have elapsed. This means that training programs that do not address retention are, at best, only 30 percent effective at behavioral change.

So how can L&D departments do better? There are many good psychological theories about what is conducive to remembering. In a nutshell, these theories agree that information is not so much “stored” and “retrieved” in the brain as it is connected, rehearsed, and reconstructed. Remembering information, then, is more a matter of engaging in the right sorts of activities to recall, use, and re-engage with information.

On a practical level, there are many ways to do this:

FOLLOWING UP WITH THE RIGHT “BOOST” CONTENT.

Summaries or recaps of critical pieces of information can prompt memory, helping employees recall what they have learned. It also refocuses their attention on what is important and helps them decipher their notes. Receiving reviews on a weekly or monthly basis can thus solidify what was learned, and can easily be done with a short “CliffsNotes” version of the training in the form of a one-to-two-minute video highlighting the main ideas.

PERIODIC QUESTIONS AND QUIZZES.

People are more likely to remember information that they must use to answer a question or figure out a problem. That kind of re-engagement is a great way to boost recall, especially when the questions require applying the information to a scenario the learner will see on the job. For example, periodic quizzes can be scheduled for two days, two weeks, and two months afterward, allowing for spaced learning— proven to be the best method for retaining information.

MOTIVATION THROUGH COMPETITION.

You don’t need a huge budget and a team of programmers to “gamify” your training experience. You can enhance training reinforcement simply by adding some elements of competition to motivate your employees. For example, you can add badges and leaderboards to your training program so that employees can have a public display of what they have done, adding to their overall sense of accomplishment. Quiz contests can work well too: After sending out your post-training quizzes, gather the results and offer small incentives for those who complete them with a better-than-passing grade.

WHAT DO THESE ACTIVITIES ACCOMPLISH?

The main aim of these methods is to reinforce what has been learned. During the process of reinforcement, short-term memories of the actual training event are slowly turned into long-term memories that can truly change behavior. This halts the forgetting curve and makes the learned information more easily accessible from memory. As a side benefit, employees feel more confident, engaged, and knowledgeable.

What’s more, training programs that succeed in doing this provide a positive return on investment over the long term. Training programs that do not take reinforcement seriously often falter as the forgetting curve kicks in.

–Ryan Eudy is CEO of ej4. Ej4 is a 2016 Best of Elearning! winner. Learn more at: www.ej4.com

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