Improving Knowledge Retention in eLearning

Improving Knowledge Retention in eLearning

A kind gnome pass this knowledge retention link to me (yeah, Ima gonna pay for that gnome comment! 🙂

It’s worth a full read but the highlights on how we can use those retention ideas to improve our eLearning courses are:

Say it Again if You Want Me To Remember!

Repetition and Retention

Studies show that adaptive repetition aids in knowledge retention.  The gist of it is:

  1. Pretest – what do I already know?
  2. Adaptive Learning presentation – Show me only the gaps in my knowledge
  3. Test – What do I know now?
  4. Repeat step 2 – showing only my latest gaps in knowledge.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  The key of course, how do we keep it interesting on those repeat steps. This is where gaming theories come in.

Why am I Taking this Module Again??

Motivation and Retention

Ever wonder why you can sit through your favorite video game and play it again.. .and again.. and AGAIN? I mean come on, after the first two tries, you KNOW the flesh-eating zombie is popping out from behind that car wreck. No surprise there. But still, you shoot and shoot and…

..okay got distracted there… 🙂  Anyway, the point being, It’s not the repetition that bothers us. We do that in other situations. It’s the motivation. What’s my reward for killing that zombie?  Well, eventually I’ll master Level 1 and get to Level 2, then Level 3, etc etc.

How’s that relate to mastering BGP?  Well, it’s all in the levels.  First prize goes to the commenter who can equate BGP peers to zombies! 🙂  Seriously, though – we already separate our courses into lessons, our lessons into modules.

  • How would you change your module design if you thought about it as a level in a video game?
  • What’s the student get when they master level 1 (module1) – what have they learned? (Remember those learning objectives? They can’t be ‘Describe Route Reflectors”. They have to be more like “Redesign a Full-Mesh BGP Network using Route Reflectors”.  That is, apply it to what the need to do in the day job.)
  • Keep the module (level) engaging.  25-30 questions to master a module (or maybe a lesson?).

Beyond that though, how do we keep it interesting if we are pushing the student back through that Route Reflector material again and again? That’s where we bring in branching.

  1. Describe Route Reflectors -what are they, why use them, when do I start using them?  – toss in a procedure or two on how to configure. TEST!
  2. Next iteration, present what they didn’t understand – use examples this time. Maybe a video. TEST
  3. Another iteration – hopefully whittling down on what the student isn’t grasping – maybe reuse some of the concepts in step 1 with a part of the example in step 2.

Reuse portions of the content, presented in different ways.

Learning in the Now, Baby!

Instant Gratification

This one’s easy – instant feedback on an incorrect answer.  Imagine if that video game paused with a popup ‘Shoot Zombies in the HEAD if you want them to stay dead!”  A short description of what’s wrong with the student’s answer, and then a link back into the course if they want to go back immediately to retake that part.

Um, Was that a Lucky Guess?

Emotion and Retention

This was the one that wasn’t obvious to me.  If you ask me ‘how confident am I on my answer’, that actually helps trigger a better memory retention of the content than if you leave out that touchy-feely question.  The website does a good job of going into the Cognitive Psychology involved, but the gist is – Every question is linked with this confidence factor.   If your confidence is high and you get the question right, you’ve mastered it. If your confidence is low, and you get the question right – lucky guess and you need to go through that one again.

All in all, some nice ways we can improve retention on our eLearning courses.  Question for the commenters – how do we integrate this not only into our work processes, but our thought processes?  🙂

Related Links


About Sandra Durham

Information architect and content strategist.
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