The Ones That Got Away – spaced learning

Posted on Sep 7, 2013

As I mentioned in this previous post, I’m writing a series of posts that lift the lid on some of my plans and ideas that either never saw the light of day or (as in this post) never fully developed.

One of my plans in my previous organisations had been to implement the research that I’d read about ‘spaced learning‘, in particular using it to ‘reactivate’ key learning points thus building that all important, but often overlooked element of reflection into the programme.

At the beginning of 2013 my previous organisation launched a new product which would have an impact on both sales and ‘service’ staff. I was tasked to put together a resource to aid people within a service role. The overall approach combined:

  • social learning
  • performance support
  • simulations

all encompassed within our internal collaborative platform, Jive.

The slight spanner in the works was that whilst the overall programme wasn’t designed as a knowledge transfer piece but as a ‘behaviour reinforcing‘ piece, (the behaviour being ‘use the performance support tool that you have at your fingertips’ as opposed to relying on memory and/or gut feeling), the fact that they were in a ‘service’ role and not a sales role meant there was the potential for days, weeks even months to pass between them undertaking the behaviour reinforcing programme and taking a call/email from somebody in relation to the product.

Here’s where I thought the practice of spaced repetition of the key points could be of use.

Here’s what I did:

  • Upon successful completion of the online programme individuals details were loaded into the database of Retenda (the tool I decided to use).
  • The following Monday, each newly added individual started to receive an automated cycle of emails which lasted a month that brought the key learning points bubbling to the surface (we also had the option to send these reminders via SMS or postcard) Sometimes they would be asked to reflect on a question, other times they’d be ‘nudged’ to discuss the content of the email with a colleague who had completed the programme or to reflect upon how they’d react to a certain situation. None of the questions required any formal response back to L&D, in fact we explicitly asked for people not to do so – I didn’t want this to be an onerous task or be seen as another box-ticking exercise. Each email included  a link that linked the individual to the relevant section within the performance support tool.
  • The frequency of the reminders were:

Week 1 – Days 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
Week 2 – Days 1, 3, 4 and 5
Week 3 – Days 1 and 4
Week 4 – Day 2

The final email in Wk 4 contained a Surveymonkey link to seek feedback on the spaced reminder programme.

As is usually the case the number of people who undertook the survey compared to the number of people who received the spaced reminders was woefully small, so I’m reluctant to jump to any conclusions however there were a number of people who said that whilst they understood and agreed with the general principle they felt that the method of delivery (email) meant that it was ignored or ‘lost’ within their other emails.

 

What would I have done differently in this project?

 

Based on the limited feedback, I would:

  • Limit the number of emails that were sent over the 4 week period which would mean investigating which of the key learning points we could remove (this sense check had already occurred, so that would have been a tough call)

or

  • Keep the same amount of reminders but extend them over a longer period perhaps 5 or 6 weeks.

However none of the above would have necessarily  mitigated the issue of it being ‘another email‘ in their inbox.

I’d been planning to use spaced learning within a leadership programme that my organisation was delivering with a view to tweaking the delivery method by utilising text messaging to their mobile devices in order to mitigate the ’email overload’ issue.

You may notice that I said

“I’d *been* plannng”

Because I left the organisation prior to being able to take this next important step in fine-tuning the delivery of spaced learning reminders.

Oh well… there’s always next time…

If you’d like to discuss how I can help you integrate spaced learning into your organisation then please get in touch

Other posts in ‘The Ones That Got Away’ series

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