In Part Three of this series we talked about lesson scaffolding and spaced learning as techniques that improve retention of information. Now, let’s look at how learner practice exercises also work to solidify information in long term memory.

Every time learners encounter new information, they need to take it into short term memory and transfer it into long term memory. To do this, learners need to practice with the newly learned material. The techniques you use depend on the material you are teaching and the resources your course authoring software provides. Three effective techniques:

  1. Have learners recall information through note taking or summarisation
  2. Have learners explain or elaborate upon information
  3. Have learners apply information to real world situations

Using the Survey gadget for recall and elaboration

As the name suggests, recall exercises require learners to recall information. Note taking and summarization are the most common techniques. In Versal, a great way to do this is with the Survey gadget. The Survey gadget has a free response option that can be used like a notepad where learners take notes and summarize lesson material. And the survey gadget allows learners to submit their work, which means trainers have the ability to see that the recall exercise is completed and review learner notes. This is a great way to make sure learners understand the material.

The Survey gadget is also useful for explaining or elaborating upon learned material. Again, because of the free response capabilities, trainers can pose thought provoking questions about the lesson, learners can answer in their own words, and trainers can view it all in a downloadable document.

Remember, every lesson uses previously learned information to help learners understand the current lesson. That means if learners are struggling in the first stage of note taking and elaboration, then they are going to continue struggling as they move forward through the training. As we mentioned in Part Five of this series, providing guidance to learners is a great way to improve your training results, and using the survey gadget to see how learners take notes and elaborate on concepts helps you spot problems quickly and resolve them before they grow.

Combining gadgets to apply information to real world situations

Concepts and tasks can be learned effectively, but they also need to be applied effectively. Your learners need to do more than just test well; they need to demonstrate skills in real world situations. Good course authoring software should give trainers tools to recreate these scenarios inside the course. Let’s look at a sample exercise for empathy and active listening that recreates a potential real world situation.

the audio exercise described in the learner objectiveIn this situation, we used the built-in microphone to record audio directly in the browser. On the audio tracks, two people talk about the same thing, but their tone of voice and mood is very different. Learners listen to the audio tracks and interpret what they hear. Next, they write their answers in the Survey gadget using the free response option. Again, real people discussing real situations is the key here. You want learners to get as close as possible to what they will encounter outside the classroom.

There are too many scenarios to cover here, but your course authoring software should provide a variety of interactive practice exercises. Besides the exercises discussed, use interactive diagrams and matching or ordering exercises so learners are continually processing information in different ways. This variety will help retention and keep learners engaged, ensuring that you see success in your training programs.

Be sure to check out Part One for more information on engaging learners.