Do you remember all the lessons from your kindergarten or the ones from your elementary school days? Or try to recall just the name of 15 topics (subject-specific) you learned during your graduation. Well! If you could recollect, then kudos to your memory’s retention power but if you couldn’t then certainly you are wondering why is it so? The answer lies in the cognitive architecture of our brain. Daniel Willingham explains it as “We don’t remember things because of insufficient focus, time or attention spent on them, and because of insufficient practice, usage, revisiting, consolidation or application.”

E-learning has taken the education industry by storm, courses designed with it are brilliant but any course is worthless if the knowledge imparted by it is not retained by the learners. Knowledge retention has always been a challenge but with the dawn of e-learning, the subject has gained significant limelight. Deep studies have been conducted over the years to help students learn better by enhancing the teaching methodologies and overall improve the knowledge retention rates. While information fades away from the ‘leaky bucket’ of the human brain, there are several techniques which can be incorporated while designing an online course to help students gain better retention powers.

Define your learning goals clearly

Just like life, clearly defined objectives are the key to preparing a successful course. The user should be well-aware of the course outcomes and the benefits associated, before taking up the course. Prior information ensures that the learner won’t feel disappointed after course completion. Mostly an e-learning course is taken up to attain long-term educational or career goals. A proper course map with precisely defined modules makes all the right promises to the learner.

Take Away: Tell the user what he will learn and how the course will stream through it.

Of course! Engage your learner

From basic visual methods like use of graphics to advanced gamification techniques, all are intended to keep the user engrossed while learning. Most popular captivating approaches include:

Eye-catching: Use visuals, when possible (#Visuals)

Visual learning is indeed a powerful tool that comes handy when the mode of learning is online, have a look at the astonishing facts congregated by Visual Teaching Alliance:


Human brain processes and remembers images quicker and better than text. Using graphics, charts and diagrams not only improves the look-n-feel of the content but also plays a great role in enhancing retention.

Multimedia and animations (#Hook)

Multimedia and animations are just an extension of the eye-catching images, which have eventually become an inseparable part of e-learning.  

Chunks of the right size (#MicroLearning)

Dividing the content into precise chunks of information is essential to keep an online learner involved. A module or lesson should stretch somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour.

Social learning (#Digital)

Social learning has gained a lot of importance in recent times as an effective training strategy. It brings the power of communicating beyond the Learning Management System (LMS). Peer to peer collaboration results in better course completion rates as it gives them the liberty of asking questions and discussing ideas.  

Surveys and external sources (#Additional)

An instructional designer uses multiple sources for research and references as providing information from reputed sources amplifies the power of an eCourse. External reading offers support material (which interested learners may refer to), this allows the instructor to include information without going beyond the domain of the course.

Color theory (#Hues)

Color theory is the science of understanding color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination. It is something every instructional designer needs to be aware of. Colors used while designing an e-learning course have the power to direct attention, improve readability, and thus enhance learning. Thus choosing the right colors is as crucial as any other strategy, for improving retention.

Support (#Assistance)

There will be times when learner may need a little help. Putting intuitive mechanisms to tackle any issues, are crucial to avoid loss of interest.

Take Away: Learner engagement is synonymous to knowledge retention. Integrate all possible engaging techniques to hit the bull's-eye.

Embed revision and practical implementation

The old saying accurately fits in the scenario of e-learning! Even the best eCourse may fail if the knowledge acquired is not applied, used or repeated for a long period of time. The fading theory of human memory articulates that ‘facts that you learn are forgotten when you don't review them.’ Immediate application of the learnings is necessary, thus include activities which use the concepts learned. During an online course, spaced repetition is very important – when the learner tries to recall a topic recently taught it sticks in his mind. So, reproduce snippets of core concepts when mentioned again, after the introduction of the term/concept.

Take Away: Simulate the course material, use spaced repetition and immediate application.

Tests and quizzes – The classic tools

Assessing learner’s knowledge, not only reflects his grasping power but also helps him memorize better. A study titled ‘The Power of Testing Memory’ states that “A powerful way of improving one’s memory for a material, is to be tested on that material. Tests enhance later retention more than an additional study of the material, even when tests are given without feedback.” Look at it this way, if the learner knows that he has to appear for a test to reach the next level of a course, then obviously he’ll try to remember the best he can. Testing not only aids retention, it also identifies the gaps in knowledge and results in better organization of knowledge. Thus including a test at the end of every module in an e-learning course is a must.

Take Away: Integrate online evaluations, tests or quizzes after each module or completion of an important topic.

Though e-learning is revolutionizing the way people learn, knowledge retention has emerged as a major challenge for e-learning projects. The Research Institute of America recently conducted a study which revealed that e-learning can improve information retention rates by 60%. This clearly implies that e-learning has the potential to offer high learner engagement and knowledge retention rates.

CloodOn LMS facilitates user engagement tools required for knowledge retention.



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