In 2002, I wrote an article entitled, E-Learning’s Unique—And Seemingly Unknown—Capability. In essence, I was talking about the spacing effect—about facilitating learning by enabling learners to reconnect with key learning points over time. I specifically stated the following:
“Among all the learning media, e-learning is the only one that has the potential to have meaningful and renewable contact with learners over time.”
I further argued that e-learning’s connectivity capability was actually valuable because it aligned with the human learning system, enabling e-learning to deliver spaced repetitions, delayed feedback, and shorter retention intervals.
According to research from the preeminent refereed journals, spacing learning material over time adds to the power of repetition, producing improvements of up to 40%. Delayed feedback improves learning by 10 to 25%. Reducing the retention interval improves learning by significant amounts. Rates vary depending on many factors but especially on how much the retention interval shrinks. For example, in Harry Bahrick and family’s (Bahrick, Bahrick, Bahrick, & Bahrick, 1993) classic experiment on remembering foreign-language vocabulary, reducing the retention interval would have decreased forgetting by an average of 17% per year, and up to 178% for a five-year reduction in the retention interval.
As the title of my earlier article suggested, in 2002 there were very few uses of the spacing effect in e-learning designs. The good news is that it appears that things are changing. I am currently in the process of writing an article on how things have changed.
I have seen the following types of spaced-learning implementations.
- Email reminders delivering learning material after the primary learning events.
- Mini-e-learning refreshers dispersed once a month.
- Encouragement to managers to follow-up afterwards.
- E-learning delivered in chunks as opposed to all the time.
But I want more examples.
Please send me your ideas in an email to this email address.
The best examples will be incorporated into an article and will be mentioned in the newsletter, etc.
By the way, the examples don’t have to be pure e-learning examples either. All sorts of training examples are welcome.