How Microlearning Effectively Battles the Problem of ‘Forgetting’ the Training Inputs

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One of the biggest challenges businesses face is their workforce forgetting what’s learned during training. This badly impacts organisational functioning across levels!

You don’t want the forgetfulness factor obstructing your company’s performance and growth.

This is where short bursts of training with microlearning comes to the rescue. Microlearning helps you build strong memory in your learners on an on-going basis. The multiple benefits include higher productivity, superior quality of work, risk reduction, and a solid Training ROI.

This calls for making microlearning an integral part of your training initiatives!

Let’s dig deeper…

How Do Training Spends Get Wasted?

An average company spends about $1,200 per employee on training every year. Sadly, over 75% of this training spend is lost when people forget what’s learned. Lack of reinforcement is to be blamed here.

The ‘forgetting curve theory by Ebbinghaus tells us how knowledge deteriorates over time, and often quite quickly. It is estimated that approximately 60% of what’s learned by an individual is forgotten within the first 48 hours. After a week, up to 90% of learning is forgotten. 

At workplace, this means that your learners could forget about 90% of training inputs within a week. That’s scary!

Forgetting Curve Explained

It is human for people to forget things like names, dates, appointments, where things are kept, concepts or information and so on.

However, this happening at work place can be painfully costly! Adverse impact includes productivity loss, mistakes, lapses, accidents, loss of business, and even legal issues. That’s a heavy price to pay!

Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, quantified the rate at which people forget. He also developed techniques to help people remember.

The graph below shows the decline in memory retention after a learning event.    


The Cost of Forgetting- a Case Study

A Fortune 500 company spent $130,000 to create a highly interactive e-learning module to launch its newly revamped Code of Conduct. Over 40,000 employees took the program. The total cost of rolling out this training was over $2.1 million.

The program received a thumping applause with satisfaction rating of 4.3 on a scale of 5. In fact, over 80 percent employees reported that this training would help them do their jobs better!

But, their memory of the training faded in 3 months. This was found out when a questionnaire was rolled out to a sample of 500 learners after 3 months. The result: Less than 50% recalled the major points in the newly launched code of conduct. Only 10% of what they had learned was recalled and remembered by them.

This meant that out of $ 2.1 million, a staggering $ 1.9 million was wasted because people simply forgot!

Isn’t that horrifying?

How to Reverse the Forgetting Curve

Ebbinghaus discovered two things- (1) the rate at which we forget, (2) the learning curve- the opposite of the forgetting curve.

He along with Arthur Bills suggested that spaced repetition, active recall, and practice helped memory retention, thereby, reversing the forgetting curve.

In the case study cited above, if the employees had received a little reminder or questions after a 2 days asking them- ‘Please recall the code of conduct principles you learned’. This would strengthen their memory.

In other words, a simple question asked a few days after a learning event helps reinforce what’s learned. It results in a positive mental connection by which forgetfulness is prevented. It sets the ball rolling for a learner to actually learn and remember.

A learner’s rate of forgetting and ability to learn depends on the difficulty level of the topic and the innate psychological abilities of a learner.

Studies have proven that spaced repetition helps reduce perceived difficulty-level, enhances learning capability, and boosts memory retention. It helps a learner remember, and also gain mastery on what’s learned. Plus, it works well for learners of all ages and abilities.

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What a Good Microlearning Platform Does

To achieve terrific results, you need a robust microlearning platform that’s fast, fun and effective.

A good microlearning platform uses the spaced repetition concept very effectively. A robust microlearning platform optimally uses the concept of Spaced Repetition to help your learner learn, retain and recall information or knowledge/skills. This results in mastery over one’s job skills. 

The inbuilt algorithm in a microlearning platform helps you deliver a high ‘probability of recall’. The probability of recall goes up with spaced repetition. It helps you- (1) provide repeated exposure to learning materials, (2) keep a tab on the elapsed time since their last review/reiteration, and (3) repeat periodically & adequately based on the item difficulty as per each learner’s needs. This is how microlearning becomes adaptive and individualized.

An adaptive microlearning platform helps you tailor-make the learning process for each individual learner. The reviews or reiterations/ reinforcements are done using questions, quizzes and tests that help a learner recall, and strengthen each one’s memory.

The spaced repetition algorithm is based on the findings of how human memory works. This triggers cognitively-motivated scheduling of spaced repetition-i.e. ‘reiteration’ and ‘reviews’ are spaced over time.

Content is not rushed! Training starts with easier concepts and gradually advances to more difficult ones. Slow learners and laggards are thus taken care of in an adaptive learning format.

Learning can also be matched to individual learning goals, and pace of learning. The platform auto-adjusts in such a way that slow learners get exposed to learning content at the appropriate difficulty level more frequently than quick learners.

An effective microlearning platform will include a gamification feature which makes learning an engaging and motivating exercise. It should also have an easy and wider access to people at any point of time and place.

Integrating Microlearning with Overall Training Initiative

Before you integrate microlearning into your training framework, you must get a good understanding of what microlearning can and can’t do for you.

The crux of this understanding:

  1. Microlearning isn’t a quick-fix or a replacement of your learning initiative. It’s a great training tool, and a fabulous way to build strong memory retention of work-related training.
  2. Spaced repetition and retrieval practice are two concepts that are at the core of a good microlearning platform.
  3. Microlearning cannot replace your long-duration regular training programs- classroom or e-Learning training. It is particularly useful to supplement, reinforce, augment and remediate your training initiatives.
  4. Progressive organizations the world over are adopting microlearning for a sustainable, high Training ROI.

To conclude, forgetting curve is a real problem that microlearning solves very effectively. Integrating microlearning with your overall training approach is a sure-fire solution to boosting your Training ROI.

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