In this blog article, Maresa takes a look at how spaced practice can be applied to learning and discusses the benefits of this approach.
The idea of ‘spaced practice’ is not a new phenomenon in learning. Hermann Ebbinghaus, the German psychologist who first described terms such as the ‘learning curve’ and the ‘forgetting curve’, studied the effectiveness of spaced practice as far back as 1885. It has, to some extent, been applied to teaching and training curricula ever since then. So why then write a blog about it?
Spaced practice is often forgotten about or simply left out of training curricula, despite its effectiveness. Many people don’t understand in what way it is beneficial to learning or how they might apply it to their teaching. In this blog, I will explore how Learning Designers can embed reminders and staged practice activities post programme completion to help embed learning.
What is Spaced Practice?
According to Dr. Will Thalheimer’s, “spaced practice occurs when we present learners with a concept to learn, wait some amount of time, and then present the same concept again”.
(Spacing Learning Events Over Time: What the Research Says: 2006)
There are two ways to integrate spaced practice into learning materials:
(1) Put a delay between two or more repetitions, or
(2) Present other learning material between two or more repetitions.
1. Putting a delay between two or more repetitions
The table below shows how you can put a delay between two or more repetitions of a learning concept:
Insert a delay between repetitions
|Scenario on Topic A|
|Scenario on Topic A|
|Scenario on Topic A|
In this example, a delay is placed between three repetitions of scenarios on Topic A (the learning concept). The scenarios do not have to be the same, but they must teach the same concept (Topic A).
2. Present other learning material between two or more repetitions
The table below shows how you can present other learning material between two or more repetitions of a learning concept:
Insert other topics between repetitions
|Scenario on Topic A|
|(Scenario on Topic B)|
|Scenario on Topic A|
|organize (Scenario on Topic C)|
|Scenario on Topic A|
In this example, scenarios on other topics are placed between two or more repetitions of Topic A (the learning concept).
Just like the growing trend in eating habits, little and often learning works as it gives the brain time to translate and organise memories, as well as reinforcing those retentions over time.
What are the benefits of Spaced Practice?
Repeating learning concepts supports and reinforces learning. Repeating learning concepts
over time produces more learning and better long-term retention than repetitions that are not spaced. The spacing out of practice seems to avoid fatigue effects and consolidates memory.
Dr. Will Thalheimer’s research suggests that longer spacings tend to produce more long-term retention than shorter spacings (up to a point where even longer spacings are sometimes counterproductive).
How can you apply Spaced Practice post programme completion?
There are various methods whereby you can embed reminders and staged practice activities post programme completion to help embed learning. I’ve listed some of them below:
Break your programme up into chunks
Instead of creating one 1 hour course, break it up into four 15-minute chunks. Prioritise the chunks and schedule them so that the most important and most easily forgotten points are provided more often throughout the chunks. Schedule your learners to take each chunk one or two weeks apart.
Provide short refresher courses
Provide short refresher eLearning programmes with the key learning points from the initial eLearning programme. Prompt your learners to make decisions based on learning points you want to reinforce. Deliver these at intervals throughout the year or when performance is low.
Provide practice exercises
Provide practice exercises which give learners an opportunity to apply what they have learned to their jobs. Reinforce key learning points via role-plays, discussions and scenario-based questions.
Send emails with key points
Send emails with key points at various intervals after the learner has taken the programme to reinforce learning.
Use other tools
Use other tools to keep the topic alive. For example, create a discussion forum, add a Twitter feed, write various articles in your newsletter, put up posters, give learners access to related articles, and provide live support.
Support learners on the job
Provide learners with Job Aids and resources which help them to retrieve information when they need it.
Encourage managers to follow-up afterwards
Get managers to talk with learners about key learning points. This not only encourages learners, but it helps you to discover what they may need to reinforce their learning.
These are just some of the methods you can use. Has anyone any other suggestions that have worked for them? Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this
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By Glynn Jung
Whichever product or service you seek, an organised, comprehensive selection process is required – perusing websites of e-learning companies just doesn’t work. The selection process for a suitable e-learning vendor should be guided by whether they are supplying:
- off the shelf e-learning titles or
- design and development services.
It helps if you develop a checklist, (indeed most purchasing departments demand this) so that you are consistent in comparisons. We recommend listing all the attributes of a perfect-fit vendor and deciding which features are must-haves, whether these are immediate needs or future growth and finally how important each feature is (“points”).
We also recommend that organisations adopt the “MoSCoW” method for determining their needs. This is based on agreeing:
- ‘should have’
- ‘could have’ and
- ‘would be nice to have’ – most organisations concentrate exclusively on “must have”.
Below is a sample checklist that you might consider as a starting point for your own selection of a technology vendor.
In any e-learning vendor selection process there are generally a number of important criteria, such as pricing, technology, quality, service and so on. With regard to technology, ensure your vendors know what they will be dealing with in your organisation.
|Attribute||Must Have||Now or Future||Points|
|Does the vendor serve organisations similar to yours?|
|What do current customers similar to yourselves say|
|Is the vendor’s customer base sizeable enough to ensure continued operation?|
|Are customer references available?|
|Does the vendor support customer implementations with training and support?|
|Can the vendor assure you of a successful implementation?|
|Does the vendor have a proven plan for implementation of its system?|
|How long has the vendor been operating in the e-learning market?|
|Is pricing in line with similar offerings?|
|Does the vendor rely primarily on revenue from its commercial system or is customization a large part of its income?|
|Does the vendor offer a base price that scales with volume?|
|Does the price include everything you will require to get started?|
|Can you see a relationship between cost and quality?|
|Does the vendor guarantee successful operation?|
|Is there a stated quality policy?|
|Are “bugs” resolved quickly or do they wait for a future release?|
|How easy is the system to use: How much training is required?|
|Does the system require minimal resources for administration?|
|How reliable is the system: How often and for how long does it go down?|
|Do the technical qualifications reflect our technology|
|Is the system’s technology up to date? State-of-the-art?|
|Does the vendor rely on outside support for its basic services?
Is the system capable of delivering current types of media?
|Does the vendor provide multiple solutions for your needs?|
|Can the system support with various authoring tools?|
|Does the system support the browsers we need supporting?|
|Does the system support mobile devices?|
|Does the system support our compliance requirements?|
|Are maintenance fees readily available?|
|Does the vendor require the purchase of periodic updates?|
|Does the vendor provide 24/7customer support?|
|Does the system support multiple languages?|
|Does the system support the accessibility we require?|
|Can the software be placed in Escrow?|
Bespoke e-learning development
If the need is for bespoke course development or off-the-shelf titles many of the same technical considerations still apply. You need to ensure that any course content can be accessed and viewed using devices which your staff will be using. You further need samples of their work to compare but before you do this we recommend you identify:
- who will be using the courses,
- where they’ll be using them and
- what you consider to be fit-for-purpose regarding design of content.
For example if your IT people operate a “no download, no plugins” policy that the course material requires no extra software, will operate properly on your LMS (if you use one) or as a web-playable course and on any special devices your learners may use.
Location of learning is significant – if it’s in a retail store, warehouse or factory audio is rendered virtually useless.
Your list may be modified as you start talking to potential vendors: the critical thing is to keep your absolute priorities and needs in front of you at all times and not be swayed by sophisticated marketing or sales.
Project planning and management.
Ensure the vendor provides a clear project approach which is logical and understandable – they’re the experts so they should be able to keep to plan, warn of any pitfalls and deliver on time, within budget and to agreed benchmarks.
The final thing I want to talk about is working relationships. Working with willing, supportive, responsive and flexible vendors can quickly develop into a true partnership: if you really solely on numerical weighting systems you run the risk of attempting to work with people who don’t fit your organisation’s or people’s style and culture.
Demand three personal referees similar to yourselves in their client base. Talk to these referees; don’t use a pro forma reference form: find out what they’re like to work with and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Also find out who will actually be working on your project: assess them as people when you come to interview your shortlisted companies – have a get-out clause ready in case the sales time disappears after they’ve closed the business and there’s no-one to talk to in the vendor organisation who understand your needs.
What checklist do you use when selecting a vendor? Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this checklist.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Glynn Jung
Glynn Jung is Non-Executive Director at Aurion Leanring. He has over 25 years’ experience delivering innovative and cost-effective learning and process improvement strategies for a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations.
By Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning.
At Aurion Learning, our experience tells us that one of the best ways to guarantee learner interest and retention is through the appropriate and frequent use of interactivity.
This short article identifies the top five benefits of adding interactive activities to your online learning resources.
- Changes learner behaviour – Interactive activities such as, scenario-based exercises, behaviour modelling and guided practice prompt learners to review the lesson against their own work-place practices which is an ideal approach to affect positive behaviour change amongst staff.
- Ensures the message is understood – formative assessments, questioning and assessed role-plays provide learners with instant feedback, offering appropriate affirmation or explanation depending on whether the learner has answered correctly or incorrectly.
- Connects with the workplace – printable job aid exercises, such as checklists and action plans, prompt learners to focus on the application of the course material to their particular role.
- Engages all learning styles – variety of presentation, practice and assessments support high levels of user interactivity and engagement. Rich task-based multi-media and audio immerse learners by providing realistic practice in the subject areas being taught.
- Promotes a positive learning experience – the use of appropriate interactivity encourages learners to return to refresh their learning as well recommend the resource to their colleagues as material for group or individual learning.
As a quick rule of thumb, we feel that the definition provided by American Instructional Technology guru, Brandon-Hall encapsulates the spirit of good interactivity:
“An interaction is an engagement of the mind……. not the finger!”
by Ciara Cunningham, Marketing Manager Aurion Learning
Aurion Learning and Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) are delighted to announce that their online learning system - CU Learn has been named as a finalist for an IITD National Training Award.
ILCU in partnership with Aurion Learning configured and implemented a new learning management system – CU Learn in 2012, to manage and deliver online training, accredited programmes, record classroom training attendance and provide leanring and development information in one central area for the 485 affiliated credit unions, 4,500 staff and 9,500 volunteers across Ireland.
CU Learn has also supported ILCU to fulfill its obligations with regard to new regulatory requirements by placing a renewed emphasis on the training and education of its members.
The Irish Institute of Training & Development (IITD) National Awards celebrates excellence in learning and development and CU Learn has been revealed as a finalist for the Networks and Group award which recognises the unique co-operation that is now taking place between organisations who are working together in networks and groups around the country to develop training solutions to meet the demands of their industry.
Speaking about the announcement, Suzanne Ryan, Head of CU Learning & Development at ILCU, commented:
“CULearn.ie has been central in supporting our focus to facilitate the efficient administration of training and education amongst our affiliated credit unions, particularly at a time when there is a renewed emphasis on developmental support, tailored training and Continued Personal Development, in the credit union movement.
The system has already added value to ILCU and has proven good learner outcome. CU Learn is available for free to all credit unions and we encourage those not already registered to logon to www.culearn.ie and start reaping the benefits.”
Dr. Maureen Murphy, Managing Director at Aurion Learning said:
“CU Learn has been an exemplary partnership and we are very proud that it has been shortlisted for the prestigious IITD National Training Awards. We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with the learning and development team in ILCU as they continue to transform their learning and development services to Credit Unions throughout the country.”
CU Learn is powered by the NetDimensions’ Talent Suite. Aurion Learning is a certified reseller for NetDimension’s award-winning learning & talent management products in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The winners of the IITD awards will be revealed on Friday, 22nd March, 2013 at Killashee House Hotel, Naas.
by Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning
If a picture is worth a 1000 words, then it is important to ensure that you add the right pictures and images to improve your e-learning rather than distract from it. Simple – right? Well, actually yes.
This article contains tips and advice to ensure that you get the picture to maximise your e-learning environment.
Knowing your photos from your icons
There are three main types of images:
- Icons –They are multi-use clip-art type images such as, Important, Test Question, Review Point, or Key Fact. iconfinder has a good free range of icons to use.
- Graphics - a graphic is a designed image and are very specific. Graphics can be charts or graphs; they can be illustrations or word art.
- Photographs - Finding the right photo that portrays everything that you want and are trying to represent can be a powerful tool, however, these images can be hard to find, particularly if you are not a professional photographer! We have listed below an assortment of both paid for and free images that you can use:
Finding your images:
If you would like to find free images, you can use the Creative Commons area on Flickr or stock.xchng. You can also use Compfight to help you search for photos that you can use. Remember to read the guidelines on proper attribution!
Now that you have you images, it is important to remember the following:
Don’t over egg the pudding.
After you have spent hours pulling together the content for your e-learning environment, the last thing you want to do is to clutter the page with images. Equally, images should not be there to take up space. Take a moment before adding an image and ask ‘What is the purpose of this image? Ensure that it has relevance and reinforces what it is you are trying to get across.
It is important that your images work with the content of your e-learning programme making it easier for participants to focus and don’t serve as a distraction. It is also worth noting that the images also need to work with each other.
by Glynn Jung
In this second instalment of learning analytics, Glynn discusses the classic approach to return on investment (ROI) for learning.
If you take the accountants’ approach to ROI for learning analysis there are five important points to note;
- The assumptions made before conducting the analysis are important and you must document them.
- It takes more than one ROI model to establish value, and not all ROI models will be valid for a given case.
- Collaboration with customers and senior management in identifying Learning benefits is critical; ROI determination is not a one-sided exercise.
- It is too easy to fall prey to the temptation to just “play with the numbers” until an acceptable result appears.
- Calculators can only “do numbers” – they can’t compute the value of the intangibles.
There are a number of classic approaches to show the financial impact that a given investment (your e-learning project) will have on a business.
The issue here is “How long will it take to get all the investment back?” Payback analysis results are expressed in months or years. This is calculated as the net investment amount divided by the average annual cash flow from the investment. The payback analysis is easy to use and easy to understand. However, it does not take into account the time value of money (which is addressed by another model, Net Present Value, or NPV). Payback also does not consider the financial performance of the investment after break-even Payback is best used to establish relative priority between potential projects.
Accounting Rate of Return (ARR)
This is another “simple” method for calculating the return on a major project. It gives a quick estimate of a project’s payback, supports comparisons between projects and it also considers returns for the entire life of the project.
Net Present Value (NPV)
Net Present Value is best used for long-term projects. It considers the time value of money- it expresses future cash flows in terms of their value today. While this is the strength of NPV, it also means that this method is not appropriate for projects that do not have clearly defined cash flows, or when the benefits of the project are not financial. NPV can be tricky!
Internal Rate of Return (IRR)
IRR is not as easy for non-accountants to understand or to calculate as NPV. I don’t even understand the terminology let alone the techniques.
Full business impact: the Balanced Scorecard
Many human performance interventions have complex effects on business results. In recent years, the best known method of impact assessment has probably been the balanced scorecard.
The balanced scorecard looks at the effect of a project in four areas:
- learning and
- internal processes.
It is holistic and long-term, and it is forward-looking. Financial results are still an important area considered, but they are not the only element.
If your organisation uses balanced scorecards it may be useful to relate the benefits of your Learning project to each of the four areas of the scorecard. Show how the program objectives relate to the objectives and important questions in each area. The emphasis is on process, not on metrics.