Spaced Learning for Corporates – Maximising Learning Retention

‘Repetition is the key to all learning’ is a statement that holds a lot of truth in it. Unfortunately, in the context of corporate learning we tend to forget repetition and the time required to learn new skills. Instead, we expect our employees to pick up on things and change behaviour with just a single classroom session or eLearning activity. Treating learning as a transaction rather than a journey is an approach bound to fail. Instead, corporates could use a spaced learning approach to create greater impact, while staying efficient and keeping costs under control.

What is Spaced Learning?

Paul Kelley developed the spaced learning concept and methodology based on the neuroscience work of R. Douglas Fields. The methodology recognises that all learning is subject to a forgetting curve. By enabling adequate repetition, we can help our learners fight the forgetting and transfer knowledge into long-term memory. The backbone of the idea is to segment learning in short, repetitive activities, spaced by pauses. A simple spaced learning cycle could be only 5+10+5+10+5 minutes. The 5-minute sections represent learning activities, whereas the 10-minute stints are pauses to take the mind of the learning. In the research, Kelley found that just a simple 3-layered cycle could increase learning results significantly.

Using Spaced Learning in Corporate L&D

As results oriented entities, corporate L&D departments are always looking to do things better and more efficiently. Spaced learning can be a good approach to maximise learning retention while not going overboard with resources or budget required. Here’s how you could get started with the method.

1. Structure learning into shorts bursts as a journey over time

The two key aspects of spaced learning – repetition and pauses – are easy to build into any learning program. Instead of developing a large chunk of content or a time-consuming one-time activity, you should develop learning into short bursts. Microlearning is a great way to do this. Learners can complete one activity in the morning, another in the afternoon or next week. Naturally, topics come with different complexities. Thus, you should adjust the content and spacing accordingly for different learning items.

2. Incorporate creative repetition and deliver condensed nuggets

Furthermore, instead of constantly introducing new knowledge with every activity, focus on creative repetition. Find ways to explain the content in different ways, e.g. animations, simulations or collaborative learning activities. Just repeating the same content over and over again is a surefire way of losing the learners’ attention. As with any impactful learning activity, less is more. Make sure to deliver the knowledge as concisely as possible – you don’t have much room for “nice-to-know” things with this type of delivery.

3. Pick your use cases for maximum impact

We can roughly divide the benefits of spaced learning into two categories. You should ideally aim to reap the benefits on both.

  1. Increase in learning results (retention, application)
  2. Increase in efficiency & productivity

Therefore, you should be using spaced learning to reinforce desired behaviours in the organisation. The more you expose your learners to the materials and activities, the more likely they are to apply the new knowledge. Also, spaced learning can help to increase productivity and efficiency. When you deliver learning in short segments over time, the loss in productivity is smaller. Instead of going into a classroom or taking a lengthy digital course, your employees can consume the bite-sized knowledge on the job.

Are you using spaced learning in your organisation? Want to find out more about structuring spaced learning activities for various use cases? Just contact us and we’ll help you get started. 


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