Whether a person is looking to up their skills or knowledge on their own or your company wants to provide better training and learning programs to increase the productivity of employees, one of the core goals has to be learning retention. In this article I’ll go over all the key ingredients that go into making your eLearning content stick, which is why I call it sticky eLearning!

When you want eLearning content to be retained by learners, make it sticky!

The Most Alarming Statistic for Learning Professionals

The basic idea behind learning retention is to facilitate the process by which information or skills are transferred from short-term memory into long-term memory. And this has been an object of study for a long time. Hermann Ebbinghaus described both a learning curve and a forgetting curve back in the late 1800s. His research revealed how a good 70% of new information disappears into the vapor if you don’t do anything to retain it. That single statistic alone strikes fear into the hearts of eLearning professionals everywhere.

Think about the billions and billions being spent by companies every year on training and learning, only to see 70% of it immediately forgotten. And learning professionals wonder why they have such a tough time being taken seriously by company leadership. Blame Ebbinghuas and the 70% figure of his forgetting curve!

Post-Learning Recall Opportunities for Sticky eLearning

Forgetting is pervasive, so the trick is to give the brain a signal that a particular piece of information is important and needs to be remembered. One way to do this is to force the learner to recall (or retrieve) the information in the hours and days after it was first learned. Quizzes are a way to accomplish this. And the reason it works is because asking people to recall information they’ve learned is a clear signal to the brain that it’s important enough to remember, so it will make the effort.

What Do You Do to Improve Your Knowledge? Sticky eLearning!

Think of this as a “use it or lose it” aspect of learning retention. But it’s also interesting to note that these “booster” recall events help a person recall more of the learning content to which they were exposed than just the topics upon which the questions are focused. Another important aspect of this is how the booster or retrieval events are delivered. Multiple booster repetitions done immediately, all in a row, only result in about the same learning retention of a single booster event. This is like when you’re trying to remember a phone number and you say it a bunch of times in a row. This might help it stick in your short-term memory, but it’s not facilitating the transfer of the information into long-term memory. But when you take those multiple booster events and space them out a bit over time, retention goes through the roof, improving by as much as 200% (source). The takeaway here is that this kind of retrieval practice is a hugely undervalued way to create incredibly sticky eLearning.

Less is More for Sticky eLearning

The rapid rise of microlearning is sweeping through corporate America for good reason. eLearning sticks better when delivered in bite-sized smaller chunks, with one clear concept or key point as well as one outcome per chunk. Microlearning is a hot topic these days, and I’ve written a couple articles about it on eLearningInside News(see Microlearning Essentials: The What and Why and Corporate Microlearning Examples: Real-World Case Studies). And not, it’s not because our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter – smaller chunks of learning content have always been better for the brain. People have also known for a long time that they can only maintain focused concentration for fairly short periods of time, which is why marathon learning sessions simply don’t work well. The microlearning trend shows how this message is finally sinking in.

Storytelling Creates Sticky eLearning

When people have some kind of an emotional connection to information, it is retained much better, and storytelling is the way to do that. When all you do is convey a bunch of facts, the only part of the brain that gets activated is the language center. But when you embed those facts in a story, then multiple parts of the brain are activated. Moreover, it doesn’t matter how you take the story in – whether by hearing it, watching it or reading it. The important thing is the story as the teaching method. After all, stories have an important and far-reaching place in every culture around the world. You could say we’re hard-wired to learn through stories, so it makes sense to leverage this into sticky eLearning. Stories work because they’re automatically more engaging than any other way of conveying information. They relax learners in a way that lowers barriers and lets the information in more easily and more deeply. Complex or abstract information is put into a real context that automatically makes it easier to comprehend. The story doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it simple and keep it short, but starting using stories now to boost learning retention.

Active Learning Through Simulations for Better Learning Retention

If you think of your learners as passive recipients of information, you’ll be missing out on a lot of learning retention you could get by designing content that makes them active participants, including lots of interaction, both between learners and with the content in engaging ways. A great way to do this is through scenario-based eLearning. And if you’ve got the resources to do it right, consider incorporating virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality for the very best real-world simulation you can make. I’ve written previous about all these topics, so get a fuller picture of the what, why and how in the following articles:

Real-World Applications for Retention

It’s important to keep in mind that retention improves whenever the content being learned is directly applicable to real-world activities, whether it’s the specific tasks and duties workers perform on a day-to-day basis or actual workplace environment and culture when it comes to compliance training. When learners are given the opportunity to apply their learning, or practice applying their learning in a safe environment, retention is significantly improved. Simulations are once again a go-to way to accomplish this.

This article presented five great ways to make your eLearning content “sticky,” meaning learners will retain more of what they learn. But your sticky eLearning courses and modules still need to be managed – distributed to learners efficiently and with robust tracking and reporting of results. This is where the right learning management system (LMS) becomes an invaluable tool. Discover everything the eLeaP LMS has to offer with a 30-day free trial and affordable monthly pricing after that. You’ll also appreciate having a library of 1200+ training videos ready to go on a variety of business and compliance topics.Robust features and built-in customization options give you the powerful platform you need while still remaining one of the most user-friendly LMS options available on the market today.