How Can You Improve the Way Students Learn?

Most of us waste 90% of our time and do everything we can to impede learning.

But this is not groundbreaking information. In fact, this concept—called the Learning Pyramid—was discovered back in the 1960s by the NTL Institute in Bethel, Maine.

Separate Percentages Transparent

According to Learning Pyramid, learners retain about:

  • 90% of what they learn when they teach someone else or use the content immediately
  • 75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned
  • 50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion
  • 30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
  • 20% of what they learn from audiovisuals
  • 10% of what they learn when they learn from reading
  • 5% of what they learn when they learn from a lecture

So what does this mean for the online training industry? What can research and science teach us about how to improve how online students learn? Here’s some insight and advice:

  1. Use it: Students should practice newly learned content immediately. To do this, simulate a real-life experience using virtual training labs. For further practice, assign virtual lab homework to students at the end of each course day. If homework labs aren’t possible, give students a virtual lab “capstone” exercise at the end of your online course (preferably within 24 hours after the course is finished).
  2. Reinforce it: The Testing Effect tells us that by testing our memory, we can assess what we know, as well as enhance later retention. As a result, key concepts should be reinforced to improve retention. Use ReadyTech’s surveys, tasks, exams and polls. For example, polls are a great way to collect student feedback and begin discussions about specific topics; exams reinforce concepts; and surveys make class more interactive.
  3. Make it bite-sized: According to the Cognitive Load Theory, students can effectively absorb and retain information if it is does not cause mental overload. If too much information is delivered, students will not learn what is being taught. In addition, they will be unable to call upon that content later.
  4. Mix it up: Ever heard of interleaving? If not, you are not alone. This largely unheard-of technique focuses on mixing several related skills together. In the example of a tennis player, interleaving entails alternating between practicing forehands, backhands and volleys. There are several benefits of interleaving in learning, including strengthening memory associations and improving the brain’s ability to discriminate between concepts.

With this in mind, teach content in small, relevant chunks. Be sure to focus each chunk on individual ideas. Here’s a useful guideline: the less background the student has and the greater the complexity of the content, make the time chunk of content shorter (use 4 to 8 minutes). The greater the background knowledge, the less the complexity, the longer you can make the input stage (about 8 to 15 minutes).

Research suggests that students should not study one idea or type of problem for too long. Instead, they should mix it up. So when teaching students about your software, rather than focusing on one feature at a time, instructors should blend the training of several related features. This helps students learn how to use your overall product and not just a handful of specific features—which could improve long-term product adoption and usage.

Finding ways to maximize the ROI of your online training program is vital. And delivering valuable content to students in a way that is retained—and not easily forgotten—will only help maximize your program.

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