From the Trainer Conference...
If you attended the Trainer Conference-or even if you didn't-Christina Carter's keynote on boosting the impact of learning into the performance environment is a topic worth revisiting. In this article, Christina talks specifically about the post-training learning-retention-and-retrieval strategy called "spaced learning."
Flattening the Forgetting Curve...One Space at a Time
See if this sounds familiar: You've just attended a great workshop, full of exciting new concepts and strategies you can't wait to apply. You're positive you'll remember it all because it was so compelling and so relevant to what you do. But life gets in the way and it ends up being a week or more before you can use it. And now you realize the bulk of it is gone-and even your notes and handouts don't seem all that clear anymore.
What we're talking about is called the forgetting curve-a natural and well-documented phenomenon which says that (without reinforcement) you'll forget anywhere from 70-90% of what you learn within a week of learning it. It isn't your brain malfunctioning-it's your brain making in-line decisions to keep or purge information based on whether or not it's being used.
This creates an obvious dilemma when we deliver training days or sometimes weeks from when it's likely to be applied. Let's face it, staff and caregivers are busy folks with lots of competing priorities. No matter how great or how relevant the training is, there are often unavoidable factors that delay its application.
The good news is that a strategy called spaced learning can assist in flattening the forgetting curve until application is possible. Spaced learning involves sending strategically timed booster emails to remind participants of key concepts covered in training and jog their brains to retrieve those stored memories, thus marking the information as "needed."
The idea is to estimate the average time that will pass between initial learning and real-world application for your target audience, and then space email boosters to keep their brains retrieving key concepts during that gap.
It's important to note that we're not talking about re-training the information. We're talking about providing opportunities for them to retrieve what they've already learned, by jogging a few key concepts. Your memory connects information that was learned together. By jogging retrieval of a single key concept, your memory retrieves other information that was learned adjacent to that concept.
Ideally, spaced retrieval exercises require no more than two or three minutes of participants' time. This could be asking a couple of quiz questions, emailing a set of conceptual flashcards, or asking them to consider how they would apply what they learned to a sample scenario. The retrieval exercises can be as creative as you are, and low tech can be as effective as high tech. You could simply ask a few key-concept questions in the body of your email and attach a PDF containing the answers.
And we're not talking about flooding participants with emails. In fact, spaced learning is more effective if the boosters are sent some distance apart. Your brain works a little harder to retrieve memories it hasn't used in several days than it does to retrieve something it used yesterday-and harder work equals stronger memory trails. So, if you're boosting content to cover a two to three-week gap, you might be sending two to three booster emails spaced evenly across that period.
You may be thinking, "Who has time to do this?" Ask yourself this: if it means the difference between participants retaining or losing a significant amount of what you trained, can you afford not to find the time?
Two things to ease your mind. First, emailing even a single retrieval exercise makes a difference. In doing so, you're resetting the forgetting curve at least one time and further extending their retention of the information across the gap to performance. So maybe you just commit to sending one retrieval exercise three or four days after a workshop. To assist you, we are working with E-Track's developers to add a way for you to email an entire class roster at one time. We expect that functionality to be in place by July.
Second, if you are interested in sending a campaign of spaced retrieval emails after training-to truly bridge the divide between learning and application--there is now free technology to automate the delivery of these spacings. You design your spacing campaign one time and then technology automates the delivery of that campaign to all future attendees of that workshop.
Want to learn more? I'm piloting an online TOT on Spaced Learning on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, from 7-9 PM online via Go to Training). During the TOT, I'll explain the basics of spaced learning, provide templates to use in creating your own spaced retrieval interventions, and demonstrate building an automated email campaign to deliver spaced learning to your participants. Email me (
) if you'd like to attend.