by A. Maslanka | April 23, 2019 | 7 Min Read

How To Combat The Forgetting Curve


How many times have you focused really hard in an effort to learn something once just to forget it later on? For most of us, it’s a regular occurrence. Over time, memories fade. Good memories, bad memories, important memories…all of them. That doesn’t mean we forget everything entirely – just that the details become fuzzy. If those details are important, that could be a serious problem.

The forgetting curve is a hypothesis that attempts to illustrate the loss of memory over time with no attempt to retain it. The idea began in the 1880s when Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted a study on himself. He tried to memorize patterns of syllables and then tested his memory of those syllables repeatedly over time. What he found after graphing his results is now commonly known as the Forgetting Curve.

After his study, Ebbinghaus surmised that humans lose ~50% of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days without continuous review. You’re wasting your time training and learning just so you can forget half of it. Try remembering that information weeks or months later and you’d be lucky to remember 10-25% of it.

The best way to combat the forgetting curve is by spending time on retention and reinforcement. Remembering the knowledge learned from one-time trainings is difficult. But when it comes to business, forgetting is costly. One-time trainings cost a lot, and if your learners aren’t retaining what they learned, that money was for nothing. Reviewing material regularly greatly helps reduce forgetfulness and saves money for your organization.

Blended Learning and Sustainment

Refresher training adds to the concept of blended learning. Your learners retain information and knowledge better and for longer if they’re taught through a mixture of learning methods. That could be combining eLearning with face-to-face for instance.

Every learner has a unique learning style. By blending your training approach, you have a better chance of catering to the needs of each of your learners.

It’s not only about the learners, though. Blended learning benefits the teacher, too. New, different training modalities are often more affordable and require less time than older ones. Students are often more engaged, and you’ll be more able to provide accurate feedback. Blended learning also allows teachers to focus on motivating learners towards deeper learning.

With regards to memory, a learner is far more likely to pay attention to and remember information when they’re interested and focused. Varying training modalities increases the odds that your learners will find it interesting.

What Makes for Ideal Refresher Training?

There are certain traits that make for successful refresher training:

• Quick
Learners are busy. Sustainment training options need to be speedy, valuable, and allow learners to practice with minimal disruption. 

• Compelling and Clear
Training options should be fun and interactive while keeping language clear and concise to simplify complex concepts.

• Contextual
Refresher training has to fit with your learners’ experiences and be relevant to their day-to-day jobs. That can only be accomplished with an understanding of your learners and what they do and then catering to their real-world experiences.

The Case for Shorter Event-Based Trainings

Event-based trainings are still very popular among many companies and rightfully so. Instructor-led trainings have their place in unifying a team, sharing a consistent message, and sometimes forcing your employees not to be distracted when sharing vital information.

However, we’ve seen that if you reduce your two-day training down to one-day and use the saved expenses for pre-work and post-event refreshers, your message will be stickier and have more of an impact on learners.

Consider the following illustration we mocked up for one of our clients to visualize the potential savings gained from shortening, blending, and making your training virtual – all-the-while adding reinforcement and the ability to reuse and scale!

The results, in this case, were significant. This company saw a similar satisfaction score from transitioning their previous event-based training to virtual instructor-led training and better yet, they were able to prove ROI with knowledge checks and quizzes.

Refresher Training Options

Today, blended learning options that combat the conundrum of forgetfulness are as diverse as your learners. Here are a few sustainment options that should be considered in your training curriculum:

• Interactive Presentations
Interactive presentations act as two tools in one. Learners are able to reinforce knowledge and visualize complex products and services (ex. the difference between internet speeds) by using interactive modules. These presentations can also switch to a “Perform” mode to be used and shared with prospects or clients. Robust reporting measures all user activity so managers can provide guidance for their learners.

• Huddles
Huddles are in-person refresher training that drives retention by using fast-paced, hands-on activities. Facilitators lead Huddles to help employees review specific learning objectives, practice skills and behaviors, and get feedback on the spot. They’re also super easy to facilitate as each one comes with a playbook providing step-by-step instructions on how to prepare for and run a Huddle.

• Games
Studies show that games train the brain by engaging with social and competitive elements. These elements heighten attention, sustain focus, and drive action. And let’s be real, they’re fun. The results speak for themselves:

• 3x increase in training material interactions
• 64% improvement in knowledge from beginning to end of a game Plain and simple, training for one day a year does not work.

Don’t waste your money and time on training that won’t be remembered a week later. It’s time to give your learners valuable refreshers in the flow of their work and for you to stop hitting your head against a wall wondering why skills are not improving and behaviors are not changing.

Choosing the Right Modality for Your Content

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