Thanks to an explosion in brain research during the past ten years, scientists know more about the brain than ever before. These advancements have allowed scientists to understand new aspects of memory, cognition and how we learn.

In this fast paced world, teams must innovate and constantly search for new ways to work smarter – not harder. As changes are made, the team’s knowledge has to expand and it may be challenging for them to maintain their expertise.

When we first launched our eLearning initiative, it was based on three cognitive strategies; improving knowledge retention, and consequently, job performance.

The initial results for the first month were way beyond our expectations:

  • 449 Daily Training Sessions Completed
  • 209 Extra Training Sessions Completed
  • 3,596 Questions Answered
  • 77 Topics Graduated

Our team was more confident in their knowledge and were proactively participating in the initiative to the benefit of themselves and the organization.

So how did we achieve this?

Cognitive Strategy No. 1: Repeated Retrieval

Repeated retrieval is the systematic retrieving of information from memory, such as when a person has to recall the answer to a series of questions.  Research has demonstrated the act of retrieving information from memory — even as few as two times — actually produces a memory trace that is resistant to forgetting.

Think about it this way. When people slide down a snow hill, they create a groove in the snow. The more they slide down the hill, the deeper the groove gets, and the faster they slide. Pathways in the brain work the same way.

The Research

In a 2011 study, “Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning Than Elaborative Studying With Concept Mapping,” Purdue University researchers Jeffrey Karpicke and Janell Blunt concluded that retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying. Elaborative studying is the long-form studying typically done in school and often in the work environment; it used to be considered one of the best learning techniques for retention.

How could this work for your organization?

Employing retrieval practice in a learning environment doesn’t mean employees have to undergo sustained, rigorous testing. We’re finding success with Q&A programs, where the team are presented with a short series of questions, often between two and five per day. If they answer a question correctly a certain number of times, they move on to new material. If the answer is incorrect, they’re given the correct answer, and will be periodically asked again until they master it.

Cognitive Strategy No. 2: The Spacing Effect

Also known as interval reinforcement, the spacing effect indicates that information is better retained long term when it is presented repeatedly with specific time gaps between each repetition. This is in direct contrast to cramming, which involves studying large amounts of data continuously over a short time period.

The Research

In his 2006 study “Spacing Learning Events Over Time”, Will Thalheimer, founder of Work-Learning Research, determined that although learning and memory are strong during a training event, knowledge decay begins almost immediately afterward, and more than 90 percent of the information may be forgotten in as little as a month.

However, spaced learning on the job after a training event enhances how much people will remember and apply. “The closer in time learning is delivered to the situations when it is needed, the less forgetting will be a factor. The less forgetting, the more learners will be able to remember what they learned and apply it to their jobs.”.

How could this work for your organization?

At Biz, we’ve found that presenting short bites of information to be an effective way to drive knowledge. Spacing allows us to create a continuous learning environment, weaving learning into every work day.

Cognitive Strategy No. 3: Deep Encoding

Deep encoding happens when newly learned information is linked to information already anchored in memory, or there is another trigger that causes a person to remember the information more readily. For example, the information provokes a strong emotional response.

Encoding can be enhanced three ways:

  • First, build on existing cognitive structures by personalizing information to individuals based on their job responsibilities or demonstrated knowledge levels.
  • Second, break information into smaller chunks that can be processed and linked more easily. Scientists now know the brain is highly effective at processing four to five bits of information at a time but becomes overwhelmed easily after that, making it harder to move information from working memory into long-term memory before it’s lost.
  • Finally, make the learning experience engaging and fun to motivate employees to proactively look for learning opportunities, increasing receptivity and retention. We’ve utilized gamification / game mechanics to create an engaging experience and a competitive drive to learn more!  The team not only knows more, but they are far more confident about the information they know.


The Forefront Of E-Learning In The Middle East

CLO’s who want to transform the corporate learning experience and elevate their strategic value to the organization will tap into the power of the human brain as the next frontier for innovation. Getting knowledge into long-term memory is the key to sustained employee performance improvement.