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Kerry Pascall How to improve learning transfer: 3 simple tips

When designing any learning solution, it can be easy to get bogged down in the ‘what’ - finding the latest shiny tool to deliver the learning.

How To Improve Learning Transfer 3 Simple Steps 6 11 19

But while the likes of AI, AR and VR can all offer some pretty novel solutions, they won’t be effective unless they’re aligned with how your learners like to learn, are suitable for your topic, and can deliver a return on the investment.

A key part of this – in fact, probably the most important part – is ensuring that learning is designed to be remembered and applied on the job.

Currently, the evidence suggests that learning still isn’t being retained and used to support day-to-day tasks. Even when people give positive feedback from a learning event or programme, they often admit to applying as little as 1% of the content back in the workplace.   

Ultimately, you can painstakingly put together the most comprehensive suite of learning resources, but if they’re not doing what they are designed to do – fill a skill or knowledge gap that improves the learner’s ability to perform their role successfully – then you’re wasting a lot of time, effort and money.

So, at a time when L&D budgets and resources are increasing and enthusiasm for learning is growing, we need to grab the opportunity with both hands and deliver solutions that encourage retention over the long term.

Here are three ideas to get you started:

1. Make the design memorable

When it comes to design, there’s a lot to consider – I could easily write a whole other post!

The key things to bear in mind when it comes to making it memorable are:

  • Interactivity - learners should be active participants, whether it’s face-to-face or digital.
  • Questions - questions and other forms of test should be incorporated regularly throughout the design to aid user understanding.
  • Visuals - we remember images far more than we do words: our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. So, think about incorporating pictures, graphics and animation to drive retention.
  • Navigation - content should be well organised and easily accessible. There should be a logical progression or flow, and if alternative routes are available these routes should complement the flow of the training.

2. Space it

‘Spaced’ learning simply means that the learning is continually drip fed in bite-sized pieces.

This can be done in a variety of ways and can vary from a ten-second video clip to a ten-minute refresher eLearning module or quiz. It can also be used before, during and after a programme as learning support.

Ideally, spaced learning should not be too long in duration as it needs to address an immediate need of the learner, such as ‘How do I do this?’ or ‘Show me the steps to…’.

This effectively pulls out key messages of the new skill, knowledge or behaviour and is a continuous reinforcement of the original learning. Delivering this to the right groups of people at the right time will help to embed the learning effectively.

3. Encourage time for reflection

Reflection should take place during the learning itself, not just afterwards. This time for critical thinking will encourage learners to think about how what they’re doing will help them and be applied back in the workplace.

From a neuroscience perspective, the act of linking together all these separate pieces of information will increase the connections in the brain and make recall easier.

This can then be reinforced with further time for reflection after the learning.

I would suggest using line managers at this point; regular conversations in the weeks and months following learning will give the learner an added incentive to think more deeply about the content and how they’re applying it on the job.

In a time-poor working world, reflection can easily be overlooked, but it really is a fundamental part of ensuring the learning it retained beyond the length of the course or module. 

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Are you looking to improve learning retention in your organisation? Download our short guide to reviving your eLearning, which could be the first step towards improving learning retention.

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Kerry Pascall, Head of Digital Learning, Bray Leino Learning

In my series of blogs you can expect some tips on implementing eLearning, what to consider when commissioning eLearning, design tips, software and authoring pros and cons, and general advice on everything eLearning!

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