Spaced Learning and Repetition: Why They Work


Interested in spaced learning and distributed practice? Then download our free Primer on Spaced Repetition and Feedback Loops. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about these concepts so you can incorporate them in your own training.


Spaced learning and repetition are the keys to how we learn. Here at BLP, we are using these techniques in our Knowledge Guru game engine to enable rapid retention of facts and information. While spaced learning and repetition are just starting to show up in the corporate learning world, the ideas are anything but new. In 2005, Scientific American published detailed research on how our brain forms long term memories and since then, scientists and educators have worked together to perfect a teaching process that produces learning results using spaced learning and repetition techniques.

What is spaced learning and repetition?

Spaced learning is a training technique that involves three 15-20 minute training or learning sessions with two 10-minute breaks between the sessions. In some organizations, the archaic belief still prevails that the longer and more painful a learning session is, the more learning will happen. College students often think they can get the grades the want by “cramming” for hours the night before a test. This simply isn’t the case. Rather than focusing on long periods of learning, we learn better when our brain cells are switched on and off, or with short periods of learning and breaks in between. The key to long-term memory formation is not the amount of time spent learning, but the amount of time between learning. By switching your learner’s brain cells “on” (during learning) and “off” again (during breaks), the learner’s unconscious has time to internalize the knowledge and the repetition results in long-term memories. Research has also shown that longer breaks between teaching sessions can result in longer-lasting memories.

Let research guide your learning design

Play, Learn, Track, Remember – only with the Knowledge Guru™

Learning designers and training departments are often restricted by a limited budget. Even when the trainer knows a particular method is not effective, there is little they can do about it without the necessary time and resources. Instructor-led training and “click next to continue” eLearning is often allowed to linger because organizations can’t dedicate the time and resources to fix the training. Or, even worse, they do not realize a problem exists.

Even when budgets are tight, we believe in letting research guide your learning design. Learning designers must focus on the methods that deliver results… and use the most effective delivery medium they can that still fits in the budget. Understanding the scope and budgetary limitations, we strived to create a learning tool that is easy to implement and cost effective while staying true to the principles of spaced learning and repetition.

How does Knowledge Guru use spaced learning and repetition?

Play, Learn, Track, Remember – only with the Knowledge Guru™

If you haven’t played already, go check it out for yourself. Knowledge Guru incorporates spaced learning and repetition throughout game play. Every “topic” within a game is a mountain… and learners must climb all three paths up the mountain to deliver scrolls to the Guru and achieve Topic Mastery. With 5 – 12 questions a path, each one take several minutes to ascend.

Each topic in Knowledge Guru has 3 paths learners must ascend, delivering scrolls to the Guru.

Each topic usually has 3 or 4 learning objectives, and we will create an average of 5 – 12 unique questions per topic. Then, we break each question in to 3 different iterations and put one iteration on each mountain path. Wow, that’s a mouthful.

The design is intentional. Learners are exposed to the same content, say 5 – 12 basic facts you want to teach, presented three different ways… with about a 10 minute “break” in between each exposure. The spacing and repetition of the information allows for rapid learning and retention. The final section of each game, known as the Guru Grab Bag, provides an opportunity to go over information from the previous sections, as well as learn new information. We recommend players play the Grab Bag section of the game several days, or even weeks, after completing the game. Expanding the length of the ‘break” between the game and the Grab Bag section will result in longer-term information storage.

Knowledge Guru officially launches as a product this month, but two clients have been lucky enough to test it out with their own information loaded onto the game engine. Both companies saw great results and asked us to create yet another game for them. Our friends at ExactTarget saw a 45% increase in first-call problem resolution on their support team and new client contracts double in size after their employees played MobileConnect Guru.

To learn more about the Knowledge Guru and the science behind it, come check us out at DevLearn in Las Vegas, October 31 – November 2. We’ll be there to show off our newest version of the Knowledge Guru and answer all your questions.

Pop Quiz: What word comes next? Play, Learn, Track, _______ – only with the Knowledge Guru™ (see what we did there?)