Distributed practice is a learning strategy that focuses on creating bite-sized training materials to help learners improve long-term knowledge retention.
Just because the camera is off doesn’t mean you can let your learners slide. A significant drop in learner engagement and motivation is especially dangerous in an already isolating virtual world. Before the transition to remote work, onboarding was a communal process with breaks built in—the transitions between sessions, lunchtime, and even just moments of discussion with instructors and your cohort. Onboarding virtually, even with asynchronous sessions, needs to feel as natural to your brain’s processing center as it did when you were in the office.
Blending distributed practice and asynchronous learning strategies is critical to your onboarding framework––to best equip your new hires from the jump and enhance remote learning.
Working vs long-term memory
The brain stores small amounts of information that can be retained and used to execute immediate cognitive tasks in your working memory, which is located in the central executive part of the prefrontal cortex. Information transfers from working memory to long-term memory over time; critical thinking arises when information is recovered from long-term memory in order to analyze and evaluate in order to inform decisions.
Working memory can be exhausted with overuse—if you’ve ever crammed for a test only to forget everything the second you turned it in, you know what that feels like. Luckily, our brains are powerful enough to recover quickly when it is allowed short breaks in between learning. These gaps are called “spacing.”
The length of time you want students to remember the information is called the retention interval. Optimal spacing between sessions should be anywhere from 10-30% of this interval—if the training is planned over the course of a month, then the gap should be around 6 days. Keep this in mind as you build or edit onboarding and continuous training programs.
Build your strategy around “distributed practice”
In order to stimulate long-term memory into retaining a complex skill, it’s best to consume bite-sized information spaced out over an extended period of time. This strategy, called distributed practice, reinforces the transfer of information from working memory to long-term memory.
Learners must chunk the lesson and separate them with “interstudy gaps”—in other words, learn through multiple short sessions spaced out over time. This facilitates the practice of retrieval, when learners must retrieve information learned previously during the new lesson. The information is then transferred to long-term memory after practice and use.
Recollection, retrieval and repetition are the tenets of distributed practice. At the beginning of each training event, test your learners’ knowledge of previous lessons with a short quiz or a challenge. This scaffolded strategy maximizes the ROI of your online training program.
Empower your learners to learn smarter
Remote work is exhausting enough—add training to the mix, and you’re looking at overwhelmed and inefficient employees. With distributed practice your learners will not only retain information, but also use critical thinking skills in order to inform their decisions down the line. Empower your learners by enabling them to work smarter, not just harder.
Learn how you can implement distributed practice to help your learners more effectively retain knowledge with WorkRamp’s enterprise learning platform. Request a demo to see the platform in action.