Spaced Practice Reminders for Optimal Learning Retention

by Katy Mullin, Director of Course Development at Scitent

The “forgetting curve” is a familiar topic for training directors – the idea that over time information is lost when there is no attempt to retain it. Sure, learners can take an online course, cram for the exam and likely pass without a problem. But will they have recall of information when it’s needed on-the-job months from now? Perhaps not.


Intuitively we understand that cramming produces short term gains but may not translate into long-term retention. The downside to this is that people may end up repeating the same training over again. In fact, most people will end up repeating the same training over again. Either the information initially didn’t make sense to them, it wasn’t pertinent to their present circumstance, or it was offered in a way that didn’t facilitate retention.

This is a big problem for training directors. After all, you want your learners to benefit from the content you create and distribute – not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term.

That’s why incorporating spaced practice and reminders into your curriculum design counteracts the forgetting curve. Just like a good athlete or musician must focus every day on the fundamentals of their craft, so must your learners be exposed to course concepts on a regular basis in order to have optimal recall of information.

Spaced learning principles:

  • Follow-up Early & Often
    Your first follow-up with learners should happen the day after your training, and subsequent follow-up could be scheduled again on the third, seventh and fifteenth day after training (at a minimum). Having a call to action is an effective way to engage learners. For example, send them a downloadable fact sheet to supplement course learning, launch a question of the day contest, conduct a mobile poll to see how learners are using the information, or have them upload a mobile photo that demonstrates them applying the skill they learned. Be creative to engage your learners!
  • Customize a Reminder System
    If you’re conducting an online fall prevention training, for instance, you can teach learners about the techniques via your online course. But afterward, offer a hands-on skill session so learners can practice what they were taught. Other options include push reminders to your learners’ phone or email reinforcing the information incorporated into the online course.
  • Offer Opportunities to Learn & Apply
    For example, a biologist can take an online course and then go into the lab to actively practice the concepts he or she has learned. This helps learners transition information into problem-solving, which improves retention.
  • Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
    Ideally, a person should remain engaged with your content until they have perfected it. While this may be impossible to physically meet with each learner, using spaced practice and reminder systems can automate the process and extend your reach as an educator. This interval training can happen in numerous ways including focused quizzes, polling questions, media refreshers, or with observation of the skill that was taught.   

Do you want to learn more about spaced practice for eLearning? Ask a question below.

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