5 Tips for Virtual Learning Retention

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The purpose of training is to make a long-lasting and positive impact. So it can be somewhat frustrating for trainers when learners tend to forget 70% of new information within 24 hours.

For participants, retaining information can be even more challenging in a virtual environment, where distractions and frazzled attention spans conspire to undermine even the most devoted learners.

That’s why we’re breaking out some of our best tips for improving learning retention in online settings. Follow this advice and you can be more confident that knowledge will sink in and your training will make a long-lasting impression.

Tip #1: Get Your Participants Involved

Getting your participants moving and involved can help build stronger neural connections in the brain. There are several ways trainers can encourage activity--both physical and mental--in virtual settings:

  • Ask questions constantly and make sure you allow different participants to contribute answers.
  • Invite participants to write down responses, feelings, and impressions--not all participation must be verbal, after all.
  • Use a variety of breakout session formats. You can give participants a simple discussion prompt in one session and a more complex written assignment in another.

Tip #2: Use Structure and Patterns

Brains like patterns, and patterns can help us remember (that’s why rhymes and songs are often used to help people memorize facts). The more pattern and structure you can incorporate into your virtual training, the better most participants will be able to retain information.

Numbered lists have become a favorite tool for trainers looking to add a bit more structure to their content (“5 Tips for Virtual Learning Retention” is an example of this). You might also consider structuring your training session as you would a story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Tip #3: Provide Supplemental Materials

Supplemental materials can take many forms, from checklists to case studies. In a virtual setting, this additional content can help participants follow along, make the training feel more tangible, and provide valuable after-training resources. Supplemental materials could include:

  • Detailed guide books: Guide books can help reinforce trainers’ in-session talking points and give learners a way to access information later.
  • Work books: Virtual workbooks can incorporate practice “problems” that allow participants to try out new skills.
  • Images or infographics: These are especially easy to include in a virtual setting.
  • Checklists or quick reference guides: These can hammer home key points and give participants a long-term resource.
  • Music: When you use music in your virtual training session, you provide the brain with an additional memory cue, which is perfect for virtual settings.

Tip #4: Keep it Visual

In a traditional, in-person setting, it’s good form to have a visual aid. But in a virtual setting, that visual aid becomes absolutely essential. If your participants don’t have something to look at, they’ll stop paying attention.  

With a visual element, your virtual training will suddenly be a bit more interesting than Twitter or Facebook, so use every visual trick you have to keep participants invested. Graphs, images, games--you name it!


Tip #5: Have Participants Create an Action Plan

In many ways, an action plan will reinforce everything participants have learned throughout your training session. As such, these handy little documents are a great way to reinforce many of the important lessons you’ve been teaching throughout the virtual training.

When participants create an action plan, they’ll have to synthesize everything you’ve taught into something they can use on a practical, tangible level--it will help make the virtual training more real.


Use All the Tips and Tricks You Can

Encouraging retention in virtual settings is a constant battle, but following these tips can make the task a bit easier. The more engaged participants are, the more they’ll remember. So learn all the secrets to becoming an expert virtual trainer by taking the Interactive Virtual Trainer Workshop!

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