In a posting back in December 2008 I referenced one of my favorite L&D concepts: the Forgetting Curve. This is actually well-known enough to have its own entry at Wikipedia, but in essence, the Forgetting Curve illustrates that, generally speaking, unless you use a new skill immediately on the job, or have a good reinforcement event, information and skills "learned" from classes or other formal learning is mostly, and rather quickly, forgotten. This is a painful truth for all in the L&D space, but one that, if tackled head-on, can be managed in a way that leads to strong learning results.
Also referencing this concept were two outstanding posts on May 28 by a couple of industry veterans. First, Charles Jennings blogged on "ID -- Instructional Design or Interactivity Design in an interconnected world?" While I generally agree with Jennings' points and sage advice, I perhaps disagree with his claim that, "The vast majority of structured learning is content-rich and interaction-poor." I say this because I've seen a lot of well-design learning content in the past 10 years, from a wide variety of providers and also developed in-house by L&D teams. Likely Jennings has as well, so perhaps we disagree on the degree of the problem -- as of 2010 -- in our industry?
I can certainly say that Element K's design model includes exactly what Jennings is recommending: heavy doses of interactivity and experience-based learning that go beyond the instruction of concepts, facts, and guidelines. Picking just two examples: a typical software training course from Element K includes dozens of interactive exercises, and a typical soft-skills course from Element K includes a scenario-driven, branching-logic, media-rich business simulation -- not as a separate learning object, but actually as part of the e-Learning course itself. But perhaps my perspective on content development -- for both e-Learning and ILT courseware (since we use an XML-based single-source development model) -- has been through rose-colored glasses? After all, I've had the benefit of being with Element K for over 10 years now!
The other May 28 must-read posting was from Donald Clark, and was titled "Ten Techniques to Massively Increase Retention." He immediately describes the issue of the Forgetting Curve, and then notes: "The real solution, to this massive problem of forgetfulness, is spaced practice, little and often, the regular rehearsal and practice of the knowledge/skill over a period of time to elaborate and allow deep processing to fix long-term memories." He then provides a list of 10 techniques you can consider to increase learning retention, with some being approaches I hadn't yet considered. A great set of ideas!