When it comes to learning, the “one and done” approach is a recipe for failure

Rp Learningblog Reachfreq

In marketing media planning, the concepts of reach and frequency are an integral part of developing a successful strategy. Rather than spending their valuable advertising budget haphazardly, an agency first performs a market analysis to identify their audience.

Once they have their audience set, they establish specific, measurable objectives and key results by establishing their reach goals (the amount of people to whom the message will be presented) and frequency goals (the average number of times it will be presented to them).

Yet when it comes to providing employees with learning opportunities, most companies adopt a one-size-fits-all approach that sacrifices effectiveness for a quick "win". Interestingly, however, the same concepts of reach and frequency can be used to create learning experiences that are more valuable to both the employees individually and the company as a whole.

Using the concept of reach in learning design

While learning experiences are often created to address topics such as legal compliance and personal conduct, concepts that need to be grasped by every employee, the reach concept can be still be applied on a more micro level to make the experience resonate with each individual.

The most effective way to accomplish this goal is through pre-testing to determine each team member’s prior knowledge and skills. That way, they can take only the portions of the training where they demonstrate gaps, rather than being herded through the entire course from start to finish (which saves the company time and money). Pre-tests offer other benefits as well. When designed carefully, they help you monitor your employee's progress, communicate your learning expectations, focus an individual's attention on the learning targets, check for misunderstandings, and identify their interests, talents and preferred ways of learning.

The concept of frequency in learning design

When it comes to learning experiences, the concept of frequency is practically nonexistent. We have our learners complete a training course, award them a certificate and then move on with our lives and other work. But how do we know they’ll retain the concepts after the course is over? Chances are, as time goes on, and without repeated opportunities for reinforcement, they probably won’t.

In fact, over a century of research has shown that our brains learn and retain information much more effectively when it’s spaced over time than when it’s presented all at once.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure why the “spacing effect” helps us learn so much better than the “cramming” approach, though a recent study suggests that it may help cells in the hippocampus – the area in our brain where scientists believe our long-term memory resides – live longer lives.

Whatever the reason, study after study proves that spaced repetition is a key factor in effective learning.

What does all this brain science mean for you?

In short, it makes more sense to present learners with complete, well-developed microlearning experiences spaced over time than with a long course they’re expected to complete all in one sitting.

Marketers wouldn’t (or at least, shouldn't) spend their advertising budget indiscriminately, so why treat your training budget any differently? By considering reach and frequency, you’ll have training programs that result in more value, while also being cost-effective.


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