How can we use spaced practice theory in Learn My Way?

02 Aug 2018 | Written by Harriet Brown


Earlier this year, the Learning team delivered an 8 week basic digital skills course at Chesterfield library. The sessions focussed on a different subject each week, starting with the basics, like using a keyboard and using a mouse.

One of the worries that we heard a few times from the learners was "This is great, but I forget most of it within a couple of days." It's something I've heard before when speaking to learners, especially if they don't have a device at home or struggle to remember things. So how can we help learners remember more of what they learn from Learn My Way and the great digital skills sessions that the Online Centres network deliver?

If you read Kevin's blog in February, you'll know that each month, the Learning Team get together and delve into a learning theory. This time we looked at spaced practice. It's an approach which advocates learning something, having a break and then returning to it. Following the pattern of:

Learn > Break > Review

For spaced practice to be most effective, we should try and revisit what we've learnt a number of times, over a period of time. It's basically the opposite of 'cramming' the night before an exam. Trying to fit all the learning into one session and expecting it to stay in our brains isn't a good way to learn. By learning in a 'spaced' way, you're able to remember more of the new information. This video explains it in more detail.

Currently on Learn My Way, learners can do as many courses as they like, and spend 5 minutes or 5 hours learning. We know that tutors and learners appreciate this flexibility. So how can we retain this, whilst also encouraging someone to take a break and not complete all of Learn My Way in one day?

One idea was adding prompts within Learn My Way. After a learner completes a certain number of courses, a pop up would ask them if they might want to call it a day and come back to it later. So rather than change the structure of Learn My Way, we'd be trying to change the learning behaviour.

Thinking of spaced practice as a learning behaviour, rather than a theory allows us to think about how we can encourage those behaviours. So what could we do for those learners who find it hard to remember information after a learning session?

One possible solution to this comes in the form of a humble paper handout. Having a physical copy of the information would not only help people remember and reflect on what they've learned, but also act as a safety net for people who are trying things out by themselves for the first time.

We're currently consulting a range of Online Centres in the network to get an idea of what handouts they think their learners would find useful. If you've got any ideas, or you want to share how you've used spaced practice in the past get in touch: harriet.brown@goodthingsfoundation.org - and watch out for new Learn My Way handouts coming soon.