Learning and Development: A Guide to Improving Learning Retention

There have been countless exciting developments in eLearning and rapid learning over the past few years, leading to fantastic leaps forward in online training and development. One area that hasn’t enjoyed quite so much attention is learning retention — and how online learning courses can benefit it.

It’s no secret that we’re all exposed to huge volumes of information every day. So, when it comes to our business, how do we make sure the information in our training materials sticks in employee’s minds?

In this blog, we’ll explore how microlearning can aid retention, as well as asking what role digital learning can play in this fascinating field.

What are the Barriers to Learning Retention?

It would be amazing if we could control which information we store away safely in our brains, picking and choosing what to remember at will. 

Unfortunately, the reality is very different. Studies show we actually struggle to retain information from things we consume for pleasure thanks to the limitations of our memories, which psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus called the ‘forgetting curve’. So, how can we overcome this problem in the workplace?

Here are three familiar obstacles that can have a negative impact on learning retention:

  1. The information isn’t presented in a way the learner finds engaging
  2. The learner feels overwhelmed by the amount of information shared
  3. Elements of the training don’t feel relevant to the learner

If we’re aware of these barriers, we can take steps to overcome them by making the information we present memorable, well paced and stimulating for different types of learners.

Of course, that’s much easier said than done, which is why the concept of microlearning could help your employees.

What is Microlearning?

Prioritising quality firmly over quantity, microlearning is based around breaking educational information down into bite-size chunks to make it easier to digest. By placing an emphasis on laser-focused learning, this educational technique can help break down the barriers to learning retention and promote long-term recall.

Microlearning often places a focus on actionable learning that can be applied in our everyday work, making training part of the daily routine. Employees benefit from this technique as it promotes engagement and makes information more memorable; businesses benefit from a highly trained workforce and reduced company spend on dedicated training days. 

In order to be successful, microlearning should be:

  • Varied
  • Accessible
  • Specific
  • Timely

Let’s take a look at those attributes in closer detail:


One of the main problems we encounter when it comes to retention rates often comes down to whether we are auditory or visual learners. The former find it easier to take information on board by listening, while the latter benefit most from watching and doing. 

By offering a blended range of formats including audio, video and even embracing gamification, microlearning can provide a more well-rounded training experience for all employees. 


Microlearning often takes the form of online courses, because the fast-paced and interactive style naturally lends itself to being consumed on laptops or smartphones. Common modes include quizzes, videos and interactive games.

Using an effective Learning Management System (LMS), you can build microlearning programs that are useful, enjoyable and available on the go — perfect for remote workers.


Focusing on one key topic in every interaction is one of the keys to unlocking the full potential of microlearning. Breaking down topics and focusing on a single, manageable objective can prevent users from feeling overwhelmed by information.

Microlearning is the perfect format for delivering information in a way that doesn’t risk overloading your workforce, especially when sharing complex concepts.


Microlearning is effective at offering information in short bursts, meaning that it gets to the point quickly and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Most people can relate to the feeling of being exasperated by time-consuming training, especially on busy work days.

By offering speedy and focused sessions, you can help make sure all of the information in your training is relevant and feels like a genuinely valuable use of employee time.

How Does Online Learning Support Retention?

One of the most exciting things about online learning is its potential for using visual cues rather than having to rely on endless reams of text. Interactive images and features can be used to boost engagement and deliver a more accessible experience.

Businesses can also provide online learners with forums or team communication apps to discuss what they’ve covered with teammates, including anything they aren’t quite sure about. Opening up learning to discussion with peers is an important way of reinforcing training and addressing questions. 

Online learning opens up many opportunities to make training and development into a truly integrated workplace experience, bringing consistency, personalisation and interactivity into the mix. Many of these benefits can be amplified by adopting microlearning, providing a focus and frequency to learning that can help tackle the knotty barriers to retention.

Has your company given microlearning a try and if so, did your employees find it to be an effective educational tool? Get in touch with us on Twitter or LinkedIn to share your story.

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