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Five Tips to Help Optimize Learning Retention

When it comes to learning, both old-fashioned handouts and eLearning content have the same goal: make sure that the subject sticks with its students. With eLearning, however, there are more opportunities to create engaging content that lead to better learning retention. For example, your new employees will understand exactly how to operate your machinery with a video, while art students can zoom into a painting to get a closer look. It’s also easier to measure the success of your content with eLearning, both in terms of how much students retained and how much the investment of time and money paid off for your institution or business’s bottom line.

We’ve compiled five tips to keep in mind when producing and structuring your eLearning content so that you can maximize retention. With these tips, not only will you be able to increase the likelihood that your students will remember what they’ve learned, but you’ll also be able to assess where you need to refine your content for even better retention in the future.

With Inkling’s platform, you can put many of these best practices into actual practice. Read more here to learn how we can help you to produce more engaging employee training content. 

1. Make concepts and information bite-sized

This might be a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget: people can only process so much information at once. Break up your content into easy-to-understand concepts that students can grasp one by one.

Research also shows that people learn best by studying information over a period of time, instead of cramming at the last minute. You can encourage this practice in your reader by building in natural stopping points, such as watching a video or finishing a short chapter, that help the reader manage her own learning plan.

2. Test early and often

When it comes to independent online learning, the promise of a looming test does wonders for motivation–and retention. A recent Harvard psychology study claims that “by interspersing online lectures with short tests, student mind-wandering decreased by half, note-taking tripled and overall retention of the material improved,” reports the Harvard Gazette. Students can often struggle to pay attention to a single screen amidst open browsers for social media and e-mail, as well as other environmental distractions. Frequent testing ensures that students stay focused on the task at hand by making them recap what they’ve just learned with a short quiz.

3. Add interactive content

Incorporating interactive material into your e-learning content not only engages the reader but also helps them better absorb what they’re learning. The eLearning Industry cites research that found that “students who used ebooks that contained sound effects, music, audio narration and images were able to retain and recite more information than those who were simply given traditional textbooks.”

Of course, you shouldn’t add interactivity for interactivity’s sake; your interactive material must have a pedagogical purpose for it to be effective. But by sprinkling useful interactivity throughout traditional text, your readers will engage more often with the subject matter.

4. Tell a story

As we’ve already covered, shorter information is easier to digest, which makes it more effective for retention. However, there is an exception to this rule: storytelling. In a study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, participants were more likely to remember information from a longer narrative than a short, bulleted list. Learning Solutions Magazine explains that “our brain has a natural ability to remember facts told in a story,” which makes stories “extremely powerful tools for learning.” This tactic is especially useful for employee training, which often draws upon previous experience or mistakes to convey an improved strategy.

5. Make your content accessible

Even with the most well-organized content, pieces of information will inevitably fall through the cracks. It’s important to make sure that your content is accessible when students need a second glance. For example, mLearning, the latest trend in learning and training through mobile devices, offers students the ability to access the information on-the-go or on the job. With available and easy to find content, students can brush up on the material and learn what they might have overlooked.

The bottom line: Your information is valuable; make sure it gets across to your students with these five tips. Think we’ve left something out? Tell us in the Comments what you think best helps students retain what they’ve learned.

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