How to Stay Ahead of the Forgetting Curve

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April 27, 2017 | Bridge | HCI

Learning is essential to your people’s continued growth, performance, and engagement. However, if they don’t retain what they’ve learned, they can’t apply it, and if they can’t apply what they’ve learned, what was the point in learning it to begin with? Learning and development accounts for a more than $70 billion investment in employees in the U.S. alone. HR has a fiduciary responsibility to maximize learning retention and by extension, secure a return on its investment.  

According to 19th century psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, our recall declines rapidly over the first 30 days after we learn a new concept or piece of information. Ebbinghaus called this phenomenon the Forgetting Curve (he is also the originator of the Learning Curve).

Despite its age, the Forgetting Curve is still alive and well in the 21st century. If anything, our current state of smart phone and internet-enabled distraction is the perfect environment for humans to retain less and forget more of their learning experiences. How then, are we to combat this enemy of enlightenment?

We’ve taken the liberty of collecting a few ideas:

  • Don’t rely on the traditional “one-and-done” lecture approach. Look for opportunities to provide a continuous flow of formal and informal learning over an extended period of time. Use short videos (6-9 minutes in length) to explain a concept without losing your audience’s attention.
  • Use frequent reminders and short quizzes to cement new concepts. We’re more likely to study if we know a test is on the way. As an added benefit, this strategy provides lots of data on how well your people are learning over time.
  • Create opportunities for people to practice and apply what they’ve learned. We learn by doing. Don’t tell your managers how to give better feedback when you can have them role play with a colleague. If you can’t think of opportunities for your learners to do this, maybe that’s a sign the content isn’t relevant to their work.
  • Register for HCI’s upcoming webcast to know more about staying ahead of the Forgetting Curve. Ike Bennion of Bridge by Instructure will share his expertise on effective strategies to make your next learning program stick.