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Learning is inextricably linked to memory. Without strong retention and recall, learning can be a case of information going in one ear and out the other – as demonstrated by the Forgetting Curve.

The Forgetting Curve shows the alarming rate at which information can be forgotten once it’s been learnt. But there are ways to combat this. With the right strategy, tools, and understanding, you can ensure your learners remember their lessons correctly and confidently.

What is the Forgetting Curve?

The Forgetting Curve is a theory first put forward by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. The curve, shown in the diagram below, demonstrates the rate at which people forget information without any active attempt to review or retain the knowledge.

The Forgetting Curve

The Forgetting Curve suggests that up to 50% of knowledge is forgotten within the first day of being learned. For teachers and tutors, that means half of your carefully crafted courses could be redundant within a day of teaching them – if your students don’t revisit this information. Within a week, learners may have forgotten more than 80% of the information they were taught.

This theory may be more than 100 years old, but it stands the test of time. Modern psychologists have replicated Ebbinghaus’s study to confirm the validity of his findings. As a result, this theory is crucial to understanding learning retention, and how you can help your learners improve their knowledge recall, increasing their confidence and capability.

Why is the Forgetting Curve important in education?

Many modern psychologists – as well as Ebbinghaus himself – have drawn a number of conclusions from the Forgetting Curve, many of which are really useful for enhancing modern pedagogy.

1. It’s easier to remember meaningful information

Notably, Ebbinghaus’s study consisted of learning nonsensical syllables, rather than meaningful material. It’s easier for most people to remember things that are both relevant and interesting, so your course content should be as relevant and meaningful as possible. This can help your learners remember the content more easily.

2. Stress and sleep can impact memory

Ebbinghaus also realised that emotional and physiological factors like stress and sleep deprivation can make it more difficult to retain information. For tutors, creating a low-stress environment for students can make the learning process more enjoyable and successful. Gamification is a great way to do this.

3. Mnemonics help improve knowledge recall

Where the information doesn’t have inherent meaning, mnemonics can help people interpret nonsensical information as meaningful knowledge. This is regularly used in music theory. For example, the notes on a treble clef – EGBDF – are often referred to with the mnemonic Every Good Boy Deserves Football.

4. Memory improves with repetition and review

Knowledge recall can also be significantly enhanced by regularly revisiting the information. This is known as spaced repetition. In spaced repetition, information is revisited regularly at a series of intervals to reduce the amount of forgotten information.

In fact, by revisiting the learning material 4 times within a month of initial learning, spaced repetition has been shown to help learners retain up to 85% of the information – up from 20% with no repetition. Our Impact Focus plugin for WordPress is built on this principle, and is designed to make spaced repetition easy to implement.

How can eLearning impact the Forgetting Curve?

From portability to reporting, eLearning tools are a massive boon for modern education. But when it comes to knowledge retention, online learning programs are invaluable.

With tools like Impact Focus, learners can revisit information easily and effectively. With daily bitesize knowledge checks sent by email, you can refresh your learners’ memories without bringing them into the classroom. It’s a simple, scalable way to help your learners remember what they’ve learnt – while building their capability, certainty, and confidence.

Increase knowledge retention with Impact Focus

Whether you work in a school, college, or university, knowledge retention is a huge part of learning and development. We’ve built Impact Focus as a way to help tutors and mentors combat the effects of the Forgetting Curve in a way that’s easy to implement and use. Combined with a great learning and development strategy, and meaningful, engaging course content, Impact Focus can transform your learners into capable, confident staff.

Find out more about the features of Impact Focus, and how it can help you improve your learners’ knowledge retention.

Rebecca Munton

Rebecca is a creative content writer for Discover eLearning. With a background in marketing for eLearning, she writes useful content to help staff and students get the most from digital technology and Discover eLearning's award winning WordPress-based solutions.

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