It’s late. The test is tomorrow. You have a stack of textbooks on your desk and 12 hours to somehow transfer the information within them into your brain. What could go wrong?

It’s an experience that too many of us can relate to from our days at school. Unfortunately, we probably also relate to the usual consequence – the information you gained from cramming quickly disappears. Best case scenario: after the test. Worst case scenario, you’ll forget as you walk in to take the test. The problem transfers to elearning, where learners often feel like they have retained information long enough to make it through the experience, before having it vanish into the ether of other things which preoccupy our minds. We might be able to tackle this problem with the concept of spaced learning


Hack your brain.


Spaced Learning - hack your brain

The internet is buzzing with the concept of mind hacks. They are solutions which exploit the finer details of cognitive function to “cheat” at learning new tasks or developing new habits. Alongside some of the wackier hacks (thinking yourself into smelling nicer or having a table tennis ball facilitated hallucinogenic experience), spaced learning stands out as a concept with strong application for any situation where someone needs to learn and use information.

This technique sparked from neuroscientist R. Douglas Fields’ work into the creation of  long-term memories. He suggests that learning is at its most durable when we learn in chunks, switch between tasks and repeat learning often. Spaced learning sessions generally involve a series of short, intense sessions separated by intervals in which learners do a completely different activity. In a classroom context, this often means lectures and discussions interlaced with games and physical activities. 

But what about spaced learning and elearning?

In a way, spaced learning practices are already present in good elearning. Bite-sized learning? Essential knowledge delivered efficiently? A variety of learning methods, active and passive? We’re already on it! But here are a few specific ways that utilizing spaced learning theory can impact elearning design.

It can give guidance on structure. A spaced learning lesson generally consists of three different ‘inputs’ separated by two ten minute gaps. In a teacher-led learning context, that looks something like this:

Spaced learning process -Teacher input of key facts 10 minute break, Student recall of key facts Ten minute break Student application of key facts.

Of course in an elearning course, you wouldn’t want to create breaks where the learner makes a play-doh model or juggles. Instead, fill break slots with activities which are related to the topic, but which do not ask learners to consciously absorb or utilize information. So, a spaced learning elearning course structure may look something like this:

Spaced learning also shows that you need to repeat information at intervals, before it is forgotten. People can halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in just days or weeks unless they consciously review the material

This suggests that elearning shouldn’t happen just once. You should repeat it, perhaps over several weeks or months. But will the repetition cause learners to disengage? And won’t it be expensive? At GLAD we combat this by utilizing banks of questions. This means that a course can be taken multiple times and still have variety. We can create micro courses for learners to revisit key points. We also offer bespoke elearning which enables you to use courses as many times as they want without additional costs.

Contact us today by email to learn how we could create courses you learners will want to try out more than once!

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