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Sep 12, 2019 InSync Training

Try the Spacing Effect to Encourage Intellectual Engagement

Using the Spacing Effect to Generate Learner EngagementIn modern blended learning, what learners think about information presented during the training experience matters. In fact, our research shows that this learner reaction perfectly defines the concept of intellectual engagement.

Intellectual engagement relies on intent. Did we design this content in a way that encourages learners perceive it as relevant, timely, and efficient? Did we deliver the information thoughtfully so that learners understand what the business expects of them?

We’ve talked extensively about intellectual engagement recently, as it forms one of the three pillars of true learner engagement. Fundamentally, everyone involved in the learning process has a vested interest in designing and delivering training that stimulates our learners intellectually. But how can we achieve that goal?

In addition to tapping into Jennifer Hofmann’s five actionable advanced facilitation tips, expert Karen Vieth encourages us to also leverage the well-known spacing effect. Karen explains:

"The Spacing Effect is based on the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. It’s really wildly useful. It says that we’re better able to recall information if we learn it in spread-out sessions. As facilitators and designers, we can use space repetition or practice to help people learn almost anything.

Struggling to understand this concept? Think about when you were in college and you had to cram for an exam. That approach may have helped you pass the test, but a week later, you could not remember any of the information. The test material lived in short term memory, so you did not have the opportunity to retain it.

This phenomenon speaks to the concepts of primacy and recency. As humans, we remember the first and last things we hear either in a conversation or a course. In training, the structure of our programs can limit or empower our use of these concepts. If we design a one-day, 8-hour event, learners only have one instance of primacy and recency. But, by breaking the same material into three, 90-minute sessions, learners have the opportunity to hear things first and last multiple times.

In this way, the virtual classroom offers an advantage in stimulating intellectual engagement when compared to the traditional classroom. Our organizations would never approve sending people to headquarters for multiple days of short-burst training sessions. Could you imagine asking for approval for two days of two-hour in-person lessons? It would never happen! It would not offer an efficient system in the face-to-face environment.

Advantageously, we can use the spacing effect well in digital learning. We can space content, we can plan for different intervals between events, and we can more consistently engage people intellectually.


Published by InSync Training September 12, 2019