People are eager to learn on the job. Virtually every workplace poll shows that employees prefer to work for companies and within cultures that encourage and support ongoing learning. Yet, it’s the vast minority of employees — 36% — who feel they’ve been given the skills and training they need to succeed in the first place.
Learning retention statistics show that the average learner forgets 70% of what they learn within an hour and 90% within a week — unless efforts are made to help them retain it. The Learning Guild, an NYC-based community that supports research into organizational learning — calls this “the dirty secret of corporate training.”
People want to learn and progress in their careers. Leaders know that offering more knowledge and skill-building makes the workforce stronger. So where is the disconnect happening? Learning retention is one of the primary barriers to engaging, upskilling, and reskilling employees, mainly because traditional learning methods do not inspire long-term knowledge retention.
You see, there’s a tricky little thing called the forgetting curve.
The forgetting curve
The forgetting curve is a mathematical model that illustrates how learned information seeps out of our memory. First coined by a German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghhaus, it describes how memories of new skills learned weaken over time. The biggest learning retention drop happens soon after learning, unless that learning is reinforced.
The forgetting curve has a major caveat: The way learning is presented affects knowledge retention. Things that are presented clearly, and in ways the learner can internalize, contribute to long-term retention. In addition, physiological factors that coincide with the learning process make a dramatic difference in learning retention rates. Training experiences that involve physiological stress, for instance, are more apt to inspire retention in the learner.
3 impediments to learning retention
Specifically, L&D experts have found that lower learning retention rates typically correlate with three specific failures in a learning program:
- Lack of engagement — The subject matter is presented in a way that fails to engage the learner in an impactful way
- Ineffective teaching methods — Individuals have different “best ways to learn,” but teaching everyone in the same one-or-two-dimensional way ignores this fact
- Inability to apply the learned information to real-life situations — What’s learned “in theory” via a 2D training or lesson plan fails to translate to the reality of being on the job
Unfortunately, many established L&D models simply enforce the failed model. Traditional learning methods, such as lectures and reading, make it difficult for learners to retain information.
Some people learn best by seeing (visual), others by hearing (auditory), and many learn best by doing (kinesthetic). However, research shows that most people actually learn best when they use a variety of these techniques at once — what’s known as multimodal learning. This is exactly what virtual reality (VR) provides by engaging multiple senses and inviting the learner to participate in an embodied way.
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How to improve learning retention with VR
VR provides immersive and interactive learning experiences, enabling learners to retain information more effectively.
- VR places the learner in a highly realistic virtual environment where they can experience true immersion into the work experience
- VR is engaging, imparting a sense of embodiment for the learner, whose body and brain respond as if they’re actually in a real-life work environment
- By design, it’s a multimodal model of learning, involving multiple senses and creating an embodied, kinesthetic experience: learning by doing
- VR modules can be repeated on demand — critical to learning retention because repetition (with breaks) is the most effective way to learn
When VR training is conducted in the form of Immersive Learning, retention is even higher.
Immersive Learning solves the shortfalls of traditional training
Immersive Learning combines the effectiveness of VR training with advanced learning theory, data science, and spatial design. It is particularly adept at imparting perceptual fidelity into training. In other words, Immersive Learning makes the learner feel as if they’re already in the workplace, so they can practice real skills, including soft skills such as interactions with other employees and customers.
You can actually measure learning effectiveness with Immersive Learning by collecting various categories of data on training sessions. This includes metrics to measure whether learners are engaged and paying attention, how well they complete lessons and pass tests, and how they improve over the course of repeat sessions.
Subjective data is also valuable within Immersive Learning. For instance, after going through Immersive Learning modules, 100% of the physicians at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital felt more prepared to handle difficult conversations with family members. After Verizon launched active shooter training modules for its frontline workers in retail stores across the nation, 97% said they felt more ready for the possibility of it happening in real life.
Enhancing learning retention in your organization
Learning retention is an important lever when you’re onboarding new clients because it gets them more quickly (and better) prepared to work in the real environment. This saves money and makes training ultimately more effective.
But for L&D departments concerned with employee retention and positive culture at work, it’s equally important to provide existing employees with effective reskilling and upskilling opportunities. When work changes, Immersive Learning can quickly train employees on new technology or processes. And when employees themselves need change, it’s an effective way to reskill them for other jobs within your organization.
Immersive Learning can help your company increase learning retention across your workforce, from frontline workers to executives. To learn more about how your enterprise organization can make a dramatic shift in L&D effectiveness, download the free ebook Transform training forever: How to provide engaging learning programs in Virtual Reality.
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