Maximising knowledge retention in your organisation

Knowledge retention is the pinnacle of digital learning success. Enforcing eLearning courses, or virtual training is pointless, if your learners don’t remember any of it.
 
There are many studies and theories about how we learn, how we remember, and how we forget, such as the ‘forgetting curve’ and the ‘memory model. All these studies show that the rate of forgetting can be alarming. For example, Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve (below) shows us that learners will forget up to 50%  of what they learned within an hour.
 
knowledge retention graph: Forgetting curve
 
So, how can we ensure our learners are getting the best experience, and are retaining the correct knowledge? How can we be sure our digital learning efforts are not going to waste?
 

Train your learners regularly

We know learners forget content at a rapid speed after the initial learning experience.
 
But, Ebbinghaus did state that individuals can relearn information more easily, than when they learnt it the first time. Plus, every time the information is relearned, the length of time taken to forget goes up, as demonstrated in the diagram, below.
 
Overcoming reduction in knowledge retention
This shows that reminding individuals or content, is a great way of increasing knowledge retention. Using your LMS to prompt learners to take knowledge checks, access blogs or other resources on a topic – is a great way at ensuring knowledge retention.
 

Real-world application

Connecting information to real world examples aids learning. A great way to do this through a digital medium is with scenario based training. Scenario-based training has three parts:
  1. The challenge
  2. The choice
  3. The consequence
 
This allows learners to put their knowledge into practice, without the fear or risk of failure. This forms a strong connection between the subject matter and the real-world application, increasing the likelihood of knowledge retention.

 

Make it relevant
With busy schedules, and heavy workloads, the attention span of our learners can be low. So, to ensure knowledge retention, we need to ensure engagement in the learning at hand. It is your role to ensure your learners are motivated and driven to learn. To do this you need to:
  • Keep to the subject.
    Ensure the subject matter is relevant to your learner’s role or the task they are trying to complete, keeping it concise and on subject
  • Lead by example.
    Make sure your senior managers are leading by example and participating in digital learning.
  • Incentivise learning.
    Incentivise without ‘forcing’ your learners to complete a course as part of a ‘box-ticking’ exercise. Show how expanded knowledge can help achieve job progression.
 

Break it up

There is a direct correlation between the volume of learning content and the amount of time it takes to absorb this information. If you task your learners with learning a large amount of content in one go, they’re less likely to complete it, let alone retain it.
 
Breaking up larger blocks of content into smaller, more manageable chunks is a great way to maximise retention. If you have a complex subject that could take 2-3 hours to cover, and includes 8 topics, then cut the learning down into topic sized mini modules. Allowing learners to complete a single topic whenever they want. Over the series of mini modules, you still cover all the content, but in a more manageable way for learners.
 
So, there you have it; four handy hints to maximise knowledge retention. Because after all, if your learners do not remember the content you’ve taught them – it’s a waste of everybody’s time.

 

Editors note: This blog was first published in June 2018. It has been updated for clarity, with fresh new content included.