Spaced learning: the key to better training

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Have you ever finished a season of a series in a short period of time? That’s called binge watching and it is a popular pastime. ‘Binge learning’, however, is less recommended. Not only because it might be less fun than watching series, but mostly because it is not really an effective way of learning. Instead of learning for long periods of time, it is better to divide the material and spread it over a longer period of time: this is called spaced learning.

Spaced learning is accompanied by micro-learning. Basically, spaced learning can be seen as a tool to to execute micro-learning as efficiently as possible. At first, spaced learning was a method in which learning material was repeated three times with two ten-minute breaks in between. Nowadays, the concept is more broad and repetition with in-between breaks and questions are central aspects.

Too much in not enough time

When training classically, one often spends a day trapped in a classroom. While many people are used to this way of learning, it often turns out not to be the most effective way. Usually, people have to process so much information in a relatively short time that the brain has difficulties to store all this information. Just after the classical training session, most participants still know exactly what they just learned. On the long term however, a big part of the knowledge that is gained in a short amount of time, gets lost. A better solution is a way of training that enables acquiring new information and frequent repetition.

The power of repetition

Repetition is a crucial element in spaced learning. Everytime learning material is repeated, a larger part of it is absorbed by the brain for a longer amount time. In contrast, big amounts of information that are processed in short periods of time are dissolving earlier. This phenomenon was already discovered in 1855 by Hermann Ebbinghaus. A training program that enables repetition is essential for achieving good results in practice. Often it can be helpful to regularly plan ‘15 minutes of training’. In these 15 minutes one can train a new skill or repeat earlier trained material. In addition, these short training moments are easier to plan in the busy schedules of your employees and you can prevent lost time costs.

Space for your brain

Next to repetition it is important that you provide your brain with space. Repetition does not work if the same material is repeated five times in a short period of time. Make sure that there is increasingly more time between every instance where the same material is repeated. In this way your brain is constantly stimulated to remember the learned material for a longer period of time. Another important element of spaced learning is asking questions about the material. By asking others or yourself questions about the learning material your brain is handling the information in a different way. Dealing with material in an interactive way helps your brain to discover new learning pathways. So don’t be satisfied with just an afternoon of intensive training. Provide your employees with practice for multiple weeks and encourage them, for example by facilitating interpersonal feedback, to ask questions. If this can be established, the path to successfully internalize new skills is open for everyone.

Interested in how participants are spreading their online training? Take a look at the statistics in our yearly training overview!

About Marijn

marijn de geus

TrainTool brings soft skills in your organisation to the next level. The only way to develop and maintain communication skills and commercial skills is practice. TrainTool offers unlimited online practice and objective level measurement. This way, we systematically help organisations to reach a higher level of competence.


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