Spaced Learning and its Value in Teaching

Eleanor Kennedy Blog

What is Spaced Learning?

Spaced Learning is a pretty new learning method. It was first developed in 2008 by Dr Paul Kelley, a neuroscientist who was at the time investigating methods for long-term memory retention.

In theory, spaced learning is when you condense learning content and repeat it three times, with two 10-minute breaks during which distractor activities (such as physical activities) are performed by the students. While this methodology is very unique, its ending is a common goal shared by teachers throughout the world – that is for students to retain knowledge long-term.

So does Spaced Learning have a place in classrooms and workplaces? That’s something we will explore throughout this article.

One thing we do know as educators is that effective long-term learning is rarely achieved by a one-off event, but according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), designers all too often think about one-off events when building training solutions. This means that it is very likely for students to forget a lesson as soon as it ends.

This problem isn’t new. In fact, it was first spotted by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885. He discovered that we as people do not only have a learning curve, but a forgetting curve where we lose what we learn if the information is not used regularly.

So let’s try an experiment.

If I give you a list of nonsense three letter words right now, how long do you think you will remember them? Ebbinghaus did this exact experiment more than 130 years ago and his results are now widely accepted as general theory for how we learn and retain information. While some people may remember better than others, the general trend for how long we retain information is the same and Ebbinghaus developed a formula for this (The Forgetting Curve).

He stated that the level at which we retain information depends largely on two things:

  1. The strength of your memory
  2. The amount of time that has passed since learning

Therefore, effective learning strategies should be about quality of presentation and repetition, something Spaced Learning practices and something that educators and trainers around the world preach, whether it be through their own techniques or through Kelley’s development.

Spaced Learning and the opportunities that come with it

While Spaced Learning is a unique practice, it has a lot in common with more common teaching methods. One commonality is the fact that it aims to help learners retain knowledge longer, and it finds that repetition is the way to do this. Through Spaced Learning, students are exposed to information again and again. And there’s even evidence that students enjoy learning this way.

But there are many spinoffs of Spaced Learning, one being spaced education which focuses on last-minute learning. According to Harvard Magazine, students have found this type of learning to be addictive.  They also say it has turned online education “on its head” as it can increase knowledge by up to 50 percent, and strengthen retention for up to two years.

Similar to Spaced Learning, this method breaks knowledge down into two then applies a spacing effect where you present and repeat information over intervals of time instead of in binges. You also apply a testing effect, in that you present information in a test format, as opposed to just reading it.

Spaced Learning… is appropriate as a follow-up to a one-off event to minimize forgetting after that event

But when is Spaced Learning appropriate as a teaching method? According to the ATD, it is appropriate as a follow-up to a one-off event to minimize forgetting after that event. At other times, they say, it may be possible to design an entire solution using this approach. Designing learning so that activities can be tackled in short bursts, spaced over time, may not only help learners remember over time but also reduce the need for large blocks of time away from the workplace or classroom to learn in the first place. It is likely to be particularly helpful for busy learners on the go, who can use mobile devices to access Spaced Learning in short bursts of ‘found time’.

30hands and Spaced Learning

This is where 30hands and Spaced Learning go hand in hand. With 30hands Web or 30hands Pro, learners can be exposed to content over and over again and at intervals if need be. Whether it be in the classroom or as a corporate training tool, 30hands improves learner retention through appealing visuals and audio, repetitive learning and presenting learning materials back to the instructor.

Employees and students can create their own videos or watch pre-made videos explaining a learning concept. The combination of visuals and audio means learners and engaged in what they are viewing. One of the beauties of 30hands is the fact that is completely portable. Learners can watch a video on the go on their mobile device (for instance on their way to work/class, or on their lunch break), or whenever they find the time.

The fact that videos are not only engaging, but easy and quick to make means learners can focus on learning the concept rather than the stress of video creation. A video can be created in just 7 easy steps, and sharing it is as easy as pressing a button to publish it as an mp4 for posting to your company or class website, LMS or even YoutTube. Also, video links can be copied and pasted to an e-mail.

While teachers and trainers have their own methods of sharing knowledge, the combination of 30hands and Spaced Learning, or similar methods, provides a successful way of retaining knowledge longer.

To sign up for a free trial of 30hands Web, visit www.30handsweb.com or for iPad users, download 30hands Pro.

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