Knowledge Retention In eLearning: 7 Myths Dispelled

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Is information stored in the long-term memory really set in stone? Do online learners actually remember visual data better than text? This article features the top 7 knowledge retention myths in eLearning and the truths behind them.          

7 Myths About Knowledge Retention In eLearning And The Truth Behind Them

Contrary to common belief, the human memory isn’t a steel-trap, even for the most gifted and intelligent among us. Over time,information begins to slip away, as we fill our minds with new facts and stats.However, there are ways to facilitate knowledge retention in eLearning and slowdown the forgetting process. You need to know how the brain works,why certain memories stand out, and how to reinforce key concepts. Let’s dispel7 popular knowledge retention myths so that you can provide more memorable eLearning experiences.

1. Our Brains Can Filter Out Key Pieces Of Data

It’s a common misconception that we can throw an abundance of information at online learners and their brains will sort out the crucial bits. Like an intuitive sieve that automatically recognises data points that will help us achieve a goal or solve everyday problems. The truth is that relevancy does not guarantee knowledge retention. Instructional Designers must break the information into easily digestible parts and only provide pertinent details. Otherwise, cognitive overload is a distinct possibility.

2. Knowledge Is Stored Like A Mental Motion Picture

Some believe that memory is stored like a Hollywood blockbuster. That every event is recorded for posterity’s sake and available for later viewing. Unfortunately, the memory isn’t that vivid or reliable, for that matter. Online learners cannot simply relive the eLearning experience in their minds later and apply the knowledge in the real world.Knowledge is retained in pieces and is added to our existing mental schema. As such, it’s crucial to tie new information to existing knowledge to aid in retention.

3. Once Knowledge Is Retained, It’s Infallible

One of the most common knowledge retention myths is that information, once stored, is set in stone. The truth is that time, age,and a variety of other factors impact how effectively we remember. Furthermore,our brains fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle on their own even if they have to fabricate the finer details to do so. For this reason, eLearning developers must reinforce knowledge periodically to ensure the information stays locked away in the long-term memory. For example, offer online training tutorials or video demos as knowledge refreshers or cover the same subject matter from multiple angles to cater to different learning preferences.

4. Straightforward Repetition Is The Best Way To Retain Information

 Repetition is the best way to reinforce knowledge and make it memorable, right? The fact behind this fiction is that straight forward repetition is not enough. You must provide your online learners with reinforcement tools over time to make the most of spaced repetition. For example, give them a pop quiz a day or two after they complete each eLearning module. Then follow up with a simulation that allows them to apply what they’ve learned a few days after that. Trying to cram too much information into the memory banks by repeating facts and stats will simply overwhelm your online learners’ mental capacity.

5. Visuals Are Always Better

It’s true that the human brain remembers visuals more effectively than text. However, they’re not always better. It greatly depends on the subject matter, learner preferences, and context. For example, online learners don’t necessarily need to see an image that depicts a notable stat to remember it. Merely seeing the number in bold font or reading about its significance is enough. But a graph or chart may help them better understand the relationship between several statistics or to put everything into context.

6. Older Learners Find It More Difficult To Retain Knowledge

This all hinges on the old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though some mature learners may be set in their ways and more resistant to change. The fact is that even older members of your audience can retain knowledge effectively. In some cases, just as well as their younger counterparts. It all  depends on their background, mental makeup, and experiences. Genetics might also play a pivotal role. If a mature learner has trained themselves to focus and memorize key concepts, they’re more likely to retain knowledge despite the fact that the human brain loses neurons as it ages.

7. The Forgetting Curve Is Different For Everyone

This myth isn’t as clear-cut, given that there are some exceptions to the forgetting curve rule. However, in principle, everyone tends to forget at the same rate. Thus, everyone has the same innate ability to retain knowledge. Various factors can have an impact on learners’ ability to remember information, however, such as physical or psychological conditions that impair their ability to process information. One of the biggest considerations that affect every online learner, regardless of pre-existing limitations, is the form of information delivery. For example, how eLearning course designers present key facts to online learners or how frequently their memory is refreshed.

Insider Tip To Improve Knowledge Retention

The secret to improving knowledge retention in your eLearning course design is to break it into easily consumable chunks, and reinforce the key takeaways early and often. Online learners are more likely to remember the information if you mix up the delivery formats and provide knowledge refreshers periodically. In fact, you might consider a microlearning online training library that they can access on their own when the forgetting curve begins to wear on their mental synapses.

The human memory can only take so much before it starts to overload. It also needs continual reinforcement to retain the information it has and beat the forgetting curve. Use these 7 tips to facilitate knowledge retention in your eLearning course and help online learners achieve their goals regardless of their age, tech experience, or background.

Infographics combine visuals with text to appeal to different learning preferences and make content easier to digest. Read the article 7 Tips To UseeLearning Infographics To Improve Knowledge Retention to make your eLearning course more memorable with the help of eLearning infographics.


Christopher PapasAbout Christopher Pappas

Christopher Pappas is founder of The eLearning Industry’s Network, which is the largest online community of professionals involved in the eLearning Industry. Christopher holds an MBA, and an MEd (Learning Design) from BGSU.

eLearning Blogger | EduTechpreneur | eLearning Analyst | Speaker | Social Media Addict

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