I think there is often an assumption that because a piece of information is in an elearning module that users will remember it. In fact, it’s likely that users retain very little of what’s contained in elearning modules. That’s not because the module is good or bad, but that we remember a lot less than trainers/writers often think we should.

Here’s a challenge. Here are five words in Spanish and their translations. Spanish reads pretty much as it is written.

estornudar – to sneeze
miga – crumb
manzana – apple
caminar – to walk
pared – wall

How long would it take you to learn them? By learn I mean be able to say the Spanish word after being given the English prompt, let’s say after a five-day period.

It’s a really tough thing to do, and Spanish is a relatively easy language for English speakers, a similar exercise would be much more difficult in Russian or Chinese.

If we accept that we are going to remember little, it might affect how much content we put into the modules we create. We might also think about how else we can make information available to learners. For example by using instructional job aids.

Basically, instead of expecting someone to learn a lot of facts which they are unlikely to use, how about put these facts in some form of reference document, perhaps as a takeaway.

I have a folders of PDF manuals on my computer which I keep as I know I’ll need to refer to them at some point and it’s really useful to be able to get to them quickly.

Another thing we might do is make it really easy for users to find and be able to go over materials again. I use a lot of Lynda.com training videos. I know that I don’t take it all in the first time, and sometimes it might be years before I need to use something I learnt (became aware of previously). The video are so easy to access, they’re short but connected, the name of the video is simple but descriptive and with them being displayed as they are makes it easy to scan down and find the one you want.

One of our videos is about Communicating with People who Have Hearing Loss. There are some key things to remember and most of the video focusses on what hinders and helps communication. There’s a PDF of the main things to remember available from our resources page.