Enhancing Long-Term Memory in E-Learning
The long-term memory of your learners is
your final destination when you are designing and developing an
eLearning experience. As its name suggests, long-term memory, unlike short-term memory,
stores information for a long time; it is debatable whether 'long time'
means a lifetime, but undoubtedly the relatively permanent memory
storage of your audience is where you want your eLearning course to find
its place. The long-term memory, in particular, allows your audience to
retain and recall the concepts and ideas that they need outside the virtual learning environment.
To create an effective, unforgettable eLearning course, it is essential
to have an in depth understanding of how the information will be
remembered. In this article, I'll delve into the topic of long-term
memory and I'll share some useful strategies to help you make sure that
your learners retain your eLearning content.
The Long-Term MemoryTypes
Many cognitive psychologists believe that
the long-term memory is divided into two distinct types: explicit memory
and implicit memory.
Explicit or Declarative Memory.
Explicit memory, also known as declarative memory, is made up of
memories that we are conscious of remembering and capable of describing
in words. Explicit memory can be subdivided into semantic memory, which
refers to our memories that are drawn from common knowledge, such as
facts and general knowledge about the world, for example the names of
colors, and episodic memory, which refers to memories that are drawn
from our personal experiences.
Implicitor Non-Declarative Memory.
Implicit memory,also known as non-declarative memory, consists of
subconscious memories, like knowledge that allows us to carry out basic
tasks without even realizing we are recalling the information. For
example, when you type on a keyboard you are not conscious of the
long-term memories that are allowing you to perform the function.
Information that is encoded in implicit memory, such as knowledge
concerning our body movements, can be recalled automatically, without us
needing to make a conscious effort. Because it flows effortlessly in
our actions, it is often difficult to be verbalized, that's why it's
also known as 'non-declarative'. Implicit memory can also be subdivided
in two types: procedural, which refers to recalling how to do things
that require action, such as walking or playing the piano, and priming
memory, referring to the automatic activation of certain associations of
new with previous knowledge. A popular example that describes how
priming memory works is that when one reads the word 'yellow', they will
recognize the word 'banana' slightly faster than the word 'sea'.
Cognitive Processes Involved In The Long-Term Memory
Long-term memory is not just a permanent
storage that archives information. It also involves other cognitive
mechanism such as providing the working memory
with relevant background information in order for the latter to acquire
meaning. The long-term memory, therefore, performs three basic
operations: encoding, storage, and retrieval.
Encoding is the ability to convert data we collect into a
knowledge-based structures known as schemata. New information is either
just added to existing schemata enriching them, or contradicts with them
and finally manages to alter them. The first process is known as
assimilation, though the second asaccommodation.
Simply put, storage is the ability of long-term memory to store
information in different brain areas. For example, semantic memories,
such as facts are stored in different brain areas than automating
procedural memories, such as how to ride a bike. We cannot be sure,
neither for how long, nor for how much information can be stored in the
long-term memory. Theoretically speaking, the long-term memory has
unlimited capacity and information there can be stored for the rest of
lives. It is also still debatable whether information stored in
long-term memory can be permanently deleted, as "deletion" may involve
just inability to locate or retrieve information, rather than permanent
loss. It has been found that forgetting is basically the result of either poor initial encoding of information or poor retrieval methods.
Retrieval, or else, remembering. Retrieval of information is the process
of not only activating, but also using information that is stored in
long-term memory. There are two distinct forms of retrieval: recall,
which refers to generating or reproducing stored information we've
already acquired, and recognition, which refers to identifying stored
information that is familiar. Needless to say, recognition is much more
effective than recall, as meaningful associations don't require as much depth of processing or cognitive effort.
Enhancing Long-Term Memory: 7 Strategies for eLearning Professionals
Indeed, it is quite challenging to find
how to process information in ways that will keep it fresh and
accessible. This is where your eLearning skills come in. In order to help your learners retainyoureLearning content, consider using the following memorization strategies:
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Fascinating brain fact: We have 100.000.000.000 (one hundred billion!)
neurons in our brain and each of them is connected to 1000 others.
Neurons' main role is to transfer information by 'firing' impulse
signals to their neighbors, who transfer the same signals to other
"neighbors" of theirs, and so on. It's exactly like a domino effect. The
connection between two neurons is called 'synapse' and it increasingly
gets stronger, the more frequent the signals between two neurons become.
Because memories, just like thoughts, are represented by the resulting
patterns of neuron firing, the stronger the synapse between two neurons,
the more reinforced a trace of memory becomes and the higher the
likelihood to be retrieved. This is where you come in; as an eLearning
professional, wanting to offer your learners a memorable
eLearning course, you need to find a way to strengthen the neural
networks in their brains. You don't need to have a neuroscience degree
to do this: Just repeat the information you offer them over and over
again. For example, repeat youreLearning objectives andgoals
throughout the eLearning course, use keywords as often as possible and
don't forget to summarize each section or topic after completion. This
way, it will be more likely for the information to end up in the
long-term memory of your learners, and they will be able to remember it
with greater ease and accuracy later.
Use multiple ways to present the information.
Repetition allows your learners to soak up the information more rapidly
and for longer spans of time, even concepts that may be more difficult
to understand. However, it's important to switch up the formats in which
the information is delivered. If you give them the information via a scenario in one lesson, provide it in multimedia format or as a story
in the next. Not only will this raise your learners' interest in the
eLearning content, but it will also improve retention. For example,
creating an audio narrative of the information followed by a video presentation that emphasizes similar key points will appeal to auditory learners as well as visual learners.
Think of REM (Relevance, Emotion, Meaning).
REM initials here neither stand for Rapid Eye Movement sleep nor the
famous rock band; instead, they refer to 3 essential eLearning course
qualities: Relevance, Emotion, Meaning. I'm sure you will definitely
remember this tip. Why? Because I've just followed a great memory
strategy; I related a new piece of information to an already existing,
familiar one. Information can be tranferred from short-term to long-term
memory only when it's meaningful. To facilitate information transfer to
the long-term memory, create meaningful eLearning courses.
Integrate stories that trigger an emotional connection.
Follow an emotional
approach that will engage your audience, and provide your learners with
eLearning content that they feel they can relate to. Learners are more
likely to remember information when it's tied to a personal experience
or an emotion. For example, if you include stories in your eLearning
course that are relatable for your audience,
they will automatically pair the semantic memories (facts) with their
episodic memories (personal experiences). This enables them to create an
emotional connection with the subject matter and store it away in their
long-term memory. Make sure that your stories are actually linked to
the learning goals and objectives, or else they simply won't provide
your learners with any real value.
Use scenarios and simulations to access previously learned subject matter.
and simulations take active retrieval a step further by immersing your
learners in the subject matter. They are then able to make meaningful
connections between what they stored in their long-term memory and real
world applications of that information. It's also important to create
exercises that mimic real world challenges or fit into the context of
how they will be applying the knowledge outside the virtual classroom.
For example, if they must learn how to perform a basic customer service
task, develop a scenario that tests the skills and steps that are
involved in the activity. This will encourage their brains to link the
knowledge to that particular process, which will make it easier for them
to recall it in the future.
Use chunking. Break the eLearning course into bite-sized lessons.
Distributed practice is the key to knowledge retention. Break your eLearning course into smaller lessons
that are easier for your learners to digest, rather than overwhelming
them with too much information at once. This gives them the ability to
gradually absorb the information and assimilate it into their long-term
memory, rather than forgetting key concepts just seconds after they've
learned them. The chunking method was first introduced by a pioneer in
the field of cognitive psychology, George A. Miller,
and it refers to taking individual units of information and grouping
them together, so that it is easier to store large amounts of data in
the short-term memory. Chunking
can be particularly helpful to eLearning professionals, as it enables
you not only to get rid of useless information, but also to effectively
organize and structure your eLearning course.Prioritize your material
by choosing primary and secondary points, and divide your eLearning
content into sections. Use different screens for each topic and
highlight key ideas by using bullets and numbered lists and colors or bolded fonts in order to make them stand out in the minds of your learners. Finally, if you are integrating images
and multimedia into your chunking method, keep in mind that they need
to be relevant to your audience. This way, they will be provided with a
clearly structured, meaningful and memorable eLearning experience.
Prompt your learners for 'active retrieval' of previous knowledge.
When you encourage your learners to retrieve memories from the
long-term memory banks, you are tapping into the power of 'active
retrieval', which helps to improve knowledge retention and reduces the
risk of memory decay, by actively involving your audience
in the eLearning activities you provide. It's a good practice, these
eLearning activities and assessments to prompt your learners to make use
of previously acquired knowledge in order to be able to answer
correctly. Rather than simply reading a summary of what they have
learned so far, it is believed that recalling and utilizing information
is much more effective than simply reviewing it.
The ultimate goal of any online learning
experience is to provide the long-term memory with usable material for
the future. It is to stick in the minds of its learners, so that they
are able to delve into the depths of their memory to apply what they
have learned in the real world.