One of the toughest challenges in learning and development (L&D) is information retention. And it’s a problem that has existed for an awfully long time; think about how many times you’ve been on a training course only to realise weeks later that you simply can’t recall any of the detail.
There’ll be small nuggets of information that will linger – particularly impressive statistics or mini-stories that were engaging enough to be memorable – but on the whole, the stuff you were supposed to leave at the back of your brain for safe keeping will have vanished.
This is rarely the trainer’s fault. They have a pre-defined course to teach and, if it’s delivered in a traditional classroom environment full of people with varying attention spans, there’s only really one way to go about your job.
Unfortunately, the inability to retain information on behalf of the learner simply results in a wasted investment as far as the business is concerned. And that tends to give training a bad rap, which isn’t particularly fair.
So, how can we fix this? Is all hope lost, or are there better training methods available that ensure high levels of information retention?
The answer lies in content and, specifically, finding the type of content that is engaging for employees, but which can also be combined with traditional forms of learning.
A world of content
We’re surrounded by content in the digital age. Blog posts, podcasts, video and social media ensure we’re full to the brim on a daily basis; we simply can’t move online for pictures, words and opinion.
As a result, most people have developed a preference for a particular content format. Some will spend hours trawling through YouTube, for example, while others will prefer to wind down of an evening flicking through their favourite blogs.
While it would be easy to dismiss these forms of content as nothing more than ways to fill leisure time, they’re actually becoming increasingly important for L&D.
This is for one very good reason: people love content. They love engaging with it and sharing the things that make them smile, laugh or cry. But, most importantly, they learn from it. Great content draws people in and keeps them hooked. It’s also typically delivered in small chunks, and this form of micro learning is a great way to ensure people remember every last detail.
Content that helps employees learn
We all learn in different ways. Some of us are stimulated by visuals, while others would much rather devour the pages within a book. And then there’s the new breed of podcast addicts whose dog walks, gym visits and car trips are all soundtracked by spoken voice and panel discussion.
If you’re an L&D professional or simply an employee who wants to find a better way to learn, you’ll find the following list enlightening. We’ve put together what we believe to be the four key forms of content that are capable of transforming learning:
Many believe that video is still the most powerful form of content on the web. And the statistics tell a similar story; according to research, businesses that implement video on their website enjoy 41% more traffic than those that don’t.
Video is well-known for being ‘sticky’, in that it keeps web visitors engaged for longer periods of time than other forms of content. It’s also effortless to consume (just click ‘play’!) and just as easy to produce, thanks to most smartphones now sporting a full HD camera capable of recording beautiful footage.
You may not want employees spending all day on YouTube, but video is commonly used in L&D for reference material and training reinforcement. And what better way to improve information retention than to provide every learner with a bunch of engaging companion videos they can digest at their leisure?
If you’ve got this far, you’ve engaged with this blog. Good news for us, but great news for training, too.
People may adore video, but they love words, too. Blogging is essentially article writing in digital form, but given how rich web content can be, it benefits from the addition of alluring imagery, interactive polls and – you guessed it – the ability to embed other forms of content within its paragraphs.
Short blogs packed with bullet-pointed summaries, referenced statistics and links to further reading can break up what may otherwise be a day-long training session into something far more engaging.
If you’ve not heard of the term ‘infographic’, there’s a strong chance you’ve discovered one on the web, so popular is this form of visual content.
For the uninitiated, infographics are essentially images that combine vibrant graphics with quotes and statistics. They represent a far more interesting way to display numbers and percentages and enjoy plentiful sharing on platforms such as Pinterest.
A picture really does paint a thousand words, and infographics manage to say an awful lot with very little literary assistance.
If you’re going to forget anything from a training session, it’ll probably be the key statistics and important numbers that relate to the skill you’re trying to acquire. If they’re delivered as part of an infographic, you’re far more likely to remember them and, even if you don’t, you’ll at least be able to reference the infographic itself far more easily than your course notes (which probably make very little sense, anyway!).
Podcasts have been around for a long time, but they’ve enjoyed something or a resurgence of late. In essence, they’re pre-recorded radio shows that usually feature a panel of people discussing and debating a particular topic.
Given that they are nearly always free (if ad-supported), the quality of podcasts can be rather hit and miss, but when you find one that piques your interest, it’s hard to suppress your delight when the latest episode is published.
And that’s the key to making podcasts work in learning – they need to be produced on a consistent basis. The best way to do this is to break up the constituent elements of a training session and record a thirty-minute panel discussion (that perhaps includes tutors and learners themselves) covering each topic. Anyone who attended the original course can then immerse themselves once more by simply popping on their headphones.
As we’ll always note, classroom learning isn’t going anywhere – it’s still utterly relevant in the digital age. The fabulous thing about introducing content into a learning strategy is that it can work alongside the more traditional approaches.
The content formats we’ve listed in this post can all act as companion pieces to the main training session and will help considerably with obtaining the holy grail of information retention.