6 Strategies for Effective Online Learning: Spaced Practice

Online courses are gaining in popularity—and for a good reason. If done right, an online course can produce excellent results by improving your performance while being considerably cheaper than a traditional in-person class.

According to a 2013 ASTD State of the Industry Report, 55% of training content across organizations deals with basic foundation concepts such as:

  • Product Knowledge
  • Policies & Procedures
  • Compliance Training
  • Onboarding
  • Customer Service

While foundational knowledge is essential to on-the-job performance, corporate training on these topics is often tedious and difficult to embed in employees long-term memories.

What makes most corporate online learning strategies ineffective? Employees often quickly forget what they learned.

Online Learning Research Shows That Cramming Doesn’t Work

If it’s important that your employees actually learn the training material at hand, take note: When your employees take time to study up on course content might make a big difference in how much of the material they actually retain.

After tracking the performance of two groups of online learning students, researchers found that those who spaced out shorter study sessions over two to three weeks performed significantly higher on tests than those students who studied the same information in two or three days.

Why do marathon learning sessions lead to poorer results?

In the rush to absorb large quantities of information, it’s easy to gloss over important information. In addition, go over too many concepts at once, and it’s difficult to thoroughly process important concepts and to integrate them in a meaningful way.

Employee Online Learning

Spacing Out Employee Training is More Effective

To increase efficiency and meet business objectives, we need to help employees remember job-related information and apply it on-demand. Rather than intensive training sessions, a more effective strategy is to distribute your employee training over multiple sessions.

Research has shown that spacing out learning sessions, known as spaced practice or distributed practice, is the key to long-term memory formation. That’s because memory formation is most affected, not in the amount of time spent learning, but the amount of time between learning.

We learn best when our brain cells are switched on and off, with short periods of learning and breaks in between. By switching your learner’s brain cells “on” (during learning) and “off” again (during breaks), the learner’s unconscious has time to internalize the knowledge and the repetition results in long-term memories. Research has also shown that longer breaks between teaching sessions can result in longer-lasting memories.

How to Use Spaced Practice and Repetition When Scheduling Employee Online Learning?

You’re likely familiar with spaced repetition, even if you’ve heard it called a different name. The technique is sometimes referred to as “distributed practice,” or spaced learning and repetition.

In essence, spacing learning activities out over time can be as simple as having employees log on to train for 1 to 2 hours every other day, or at least once per week, rather than a 12-hour marathon cramming sessions. You can also:

  • Chunk content into “micro spacings” within a single learning event
  • Repeat content over an extended period of time, with “macro spacings” of a few days or weeks between each learning event
  • Present the same information in a different format or context for each repetition

The basic concept may seem intuitive, but solutions that are specifically designed with spaced repetition principles for both micro and macro-spacings will have the greatest impact.

Why Make Spaced Practice and Repetition Part of Your Online Learning Strategy?

An effective online learning program that’s designed to serve learners over the long-term greatly has a much higher chance of being successful by including some form of spaced practice and repetition. Doing so leads to:

  • Employees who know safety procedures can follow them—and have less accidents
  • Sales reps who know all the features and benefits of a product will sell more
  • Support reps who know how your products work will provide better customer service
  • New hires who complete an onboarding program faster will be more efficient in a shorter period of time
  • Employees who know process and procedures will make fewer mistakes

Are you looking for a new online learning solution? Since 1999, LightSpeed VT has helped organizations create the right learning solution. Our proprietary virtual training platform uses interactive video and adaptive learning, along with a full suite of reporting features, to increase knowledge retention and improve performance.

Want to learn more? Get in touch at 316.771.5050 ext.206 to schedule a demo today!