Spaced Learning and Repetition: How They Work and Why

Spaced learning and repetition are the keys to how we learn. Here at Bottom-Line Performance, 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 corporate learning, the ideas are anything but new. In 2005, Scientific American published detailed research on how our brain forms long term memories. Since then, scientists and educators have worked to perfect these techniques.

What is spaced learning and repetition?

Spaced learning is a training technique that involves short training or learning sessions with breaks between the sessions.

In some organizations, the archaic belief still prevails that the longer 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. Then the repetition of this process is what solidifies the information in long-term memory. Research has also shown that longer breaks between teaching sessions can result in longer-lasting memories.

Let research guide your learning design

A limited budget often restricts learning designers and training departments. 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.

We frequently allow instructor-led training and “click next to continue” eLearning to linger because our organization won’t dedicate the time and resources to fix the training. Or, worse, they don’t even realize a problem exists.

Even when budgets are tight, we believe in letting research guide your learning design. All too often we build training around what we feel is effective. Sometimes, we don’t think about it at all. We simply build it the same way we built the last training solution.

So take the time to really understand how learning happens. At BLP we put instructional design at the heart of everything we do, because when training is effective… well, the results speak for themselves.

An example of spaced learning in action

Now I’d like to use Knowledge Guru to show you a real-world example of spaced learning and repetition. We designed all three apps on the Knowledge Guru platform to support spaced learning and repetition. I’ll use Drive to demonstrate.

Drive is a training reinforcement tool for sales reps. It is structured as a series of unique minigames each designed to teach a specific topic. We then present those minigames to the learner as a “Daily 3”.

This means that the learner is given 3 minigames to play each day, and they only play them once that day. The player will then receive 3 new minigames the next day, and this will be a mix of the same minigames/information from the first day and new minigames/information. This both spaces out their learning (3 a day, no more) and uses repetition to solidify the information.

Please get in touch if you want to learn more about how Drive—or the other two Knowledge Guru apps, Legend and Quest—uses spacing and repetition.