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The 12 Days of Learning…or Longer…Just Space It Out

On the first day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a class.

On the second day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a survey based on my experience. 

On the third of learning, my trainer gave to me…nothing…

Wait…what? That’s it? Where are the five golden rings? And my knowledge retention?

When we think of training, it’s simple to think of it in terms of an “event” or a “course” – a class, a web-based course, or an eLearning module. Training is something that someone must complete, because upon completion, that someone has gained the necessary skills to do something their job requires. And, let’s be honest, as L&D professionals, it’s nice to design and build an event or a course. There is a defined beginning, middle, and end. It’s easy to scope, fairly easy to implement, and easy to track. And because the training is well defined, we can analyze data on who completed the course/event versus who didn’t. From that comparison, we can determine whether the training had a positive business impact.

But, if we simply stopped there, we would be missing out. We’d be missing out on the learners’ needs, because a one-time event or course simply doesn’t help with knowledge transfer and thus long-term job performance.

A Dartmouth study conducted in 2016 explains that practice is more effective when spaced out over time, instead of massed or grouped together, as it would be in a single class or an eLearning course. Spaced practice enhances memory, problem-solving, and transfer of learning to new contexts as well as offers a great potential for improving outcomes. And it’s more learner-centric. When spacing out learning, we give learners more opportunities to contribute, get support, and create connections to their day-to-day job, driving relevance.

In fact, we see this tension play out organizationally between what employers or organizations desire versus what employees desire as part of their training and how they fundamentally want to learn.

For long-lasting learning, space out the content over time. It’s definitely less easy to scope, track, and implement, but the impact can be tangible. (And isn’t that all that matters?)

What if the 12 days (or weeks) of e-learning courses looked something like this?

  • On the first day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a login to a portal personal to me.
  • On the second day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a virtual meet and greet to say hello.
  • On the third day of learning, my trainer gave to me…some videos to watch to understand the concepts of the course.
  • On the fourth day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a reflection exercise based on those concepts to work with my peers or a mentor.
  • On the fifth day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a microlearning series of quizzes to play and compete with my peers.
  • On the sixth day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a classroom exercise simulating what I’d do on the job.
  • On the seventh day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a chatbot that helped me and reminded me to build habits over the next month.
  • On the eighth day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a video coaching exercise to practice my skills and get personalized feedback.
  • On the ninth day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a short virtual reality or online course with advanced scenarios where I get realistic and relevant feedback based on my choices.
  • On the tenth day of learning, my trainer gave to me…access to an expert to ask questions and get advice.
  • On the eleventh day of learning, my trainer gave to me…a checklist and rubric for me to use with my manager.
  • On the twelfth day of learning, my trainer gave to me…additional resources to enhance all that I learned and help me continue to grow!

…and a partridge in a pear tree.

About the Authors

Britney Cole
Britney is a learning leader with experience in organization development, human performance, and corporate learning and has worked remotely, managing virtual teams for more than a decade. Britney lives in Minnesota with her husband and three small children (ages 5, 7 and 8) where she keeps warm with plenty of blankets and cozy hats. She likes to talk, so you might see her at learning conferences as a speaker. Britney has provided consulting for clients in the financial services, pharmaceutical, steel, chemical, media, technology, retail, manufacturing, and aerospace industries. She forms lasting partnerships with her clients helping them with learning design and architecture, content development, leadership and professional development, performance consulting, technology implementation, and change management. Most recently, she is helping pioneer new experiential learning methods and defining learning 3.0 taxonomy.

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