Microlearning Content + Spaced Repetition = Higher Retention

With so many videos, memes, blogs and images getting uploaded every second of the day, we continuously expose ourselves to a plethora of content.

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The internet has made us more empowered than ever. With so many videos, memes, blogs and images getting uploaded every second of the day, we continuously expose ourselves to a plethora of content. But how much of all this do we actually remember?

This is a question that is most critical to instructional designers who create learning programs for employees in organizations. They want to understand and provide content in a way that is not just engaging, but also ensures retention. Because without retention, the learnings of the training will never actually be applied on the job.

It was the leading psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus who first pointed out the presence of two curves when it comes to learning in human beings. One was called the learning curve and the other was called the forgetting curve.

The forgetting curve shows how much information the human brain actually retains in its memory. According to the curve, retention levels drop drastically as time increases making learners forget roughly 90% of what have learned in a span of just 72 hours. With such realities of the retention capacity of the human brain, how do L&D professionals in organizations ensure that they are able to carry out successful training programs for their employees?

The answer lies in offering a combination of microlearning and spaced repetition. Spaced repetition refers to the practice of repeating chunks of knowledge over time in a carefully planned manner with an aim to reinforce the learning impact. If an individual learner is presented with the same content in different ways over a period of time, the chances of him remembering it for long is higher. Depending on the complexity of the subject matter, refreshers are repeatedly delivered to the learners. The content is bite sized consisting of short and crisp lessons. When the mind gets exposed to the same information over and over again, it develops multiple ways of retrieving the knowledge which aids in faster recall.

When content is presented in a spaced learning format, learning becomes more effective. According the the pace and preferences of each individual learner, technology helps understand the knowledge gaps that exist in them. Content on areas that the learner is not very fluent with is then pushed out repeatedly to ensure the learner grasps it and masters it eventually. It is through this mechanism that the ultimate goal of training, i.e. changing behaviors or values in learners can truly be achieved. Because the content is presented in ways that is easily digestible as well as engaging, learners immerse themselves deeply in the learning material and find it valuable to their professional growth.

Here are some ways that e-learning developers can use to deliver spaced learning in their training programs:

Multiple formats of the same content

The same content can be presented in multiple formats to a learner to make the process more interesting. For example, an article about visual merchandising techniques in a retail store can be presented multiple times with the same core concepts through illustrations, infographics or a video. These ways can help transfer the same knowledge in an easy to read or visually appealing manner. This exposes learners to the same information over time, thereby keeping them hooked to it and also making the likelihood of them remembering it higher.


Assessments and practice exercises are a great way to refresh what one has learnt in modules or lessons. They help revisit core concepts and help learners think proactively to answer correctly. The results throw ample light on how much the learner has actually been able to retain, and highlights how the content in the lessons can be improved. Multiple choice questions, gamified quizzes, or simulation based practice sessions can boost engagement levels, while keeping the learning quotient high.

Collaborative learning

We live in a digital world where social collaboration through tools and technology has become the new reality. Introducing collective learning in such a collaborative environment can act as a powerful way of reinforcing learning. Discussions, debates and other such collaborative exercises in a virtual platform can help gain knowledge as well as re-visit core concepts learned in sessions. Learners can learn from one another, listen or read each other’s views on various issues as well as share their own thoughts. They can also be given exercises in teams. A lot of such innovative agendas can be designed by trainers or instructors that provide the opportunity to recall knowledge as well as apply it.

Introducing spaced learning in content is essential to ensure knowledge retention. The concept of spaced repetition works because it does not let the learner lose grasp over the concepts being taught. Spaced repetition does not treat training as a one-time event with no follow ups. It makes learners consume the same information several times during the training program, and even after it.

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