Maximising retention

One of the criticisms of instructional design is that learning is not a one-way task; it is a conversation. Many designers have made the mistake of creating learning material with a one-click spam where learners are set on a single path of information.

While this may be an efficient way to organise information, it may do little for knowledge retention and skill development in a corporate setting.

Using the nine design principles established by Robert M. Gagne and the different learning theories, which you can read here, we will take a look at how to design learning material today in a way that engages leaners and improves knowledge retention.

Open with a bang

Fireworks concept

Beginning any course with a strong opening is the best way to grab the learner’s attention and encourage the learner to participate in self-guided learning.

This can be achieved through a storyline, scenario or even a question that acts as a kickstart to put learners in a mindset of critical thinking.

Explain the objectives

Woman comparing data on laptop

It is important to clearly state the goals for the course and showcase the main concepts the learner will understand at the end. Explaining why the course is necessary and why the learner should take an active learning approach to the material is essential to the success of your courses.

Learners need to be able to fully understand what they are getting into and why it benefits them. Before starting the full content of the course, list the objectives in a summary page, video or download.

Stimulate recall

Business meeting

The third level of Gagne’s principles of instruction explains that when we learn something new, it is more easily retained when associated with something else. This can be as simple as learning a name; associating someone’s name you just learnt to someone you already know.

This association game can be applied to your learning material by using real-world case studies and scenario-based content. Establish previous knowledge before beginning the course by asking learners to complete an assessment, survey or short activity.

Selective perception and goal-oriented content

Man looking at graph on computer

Your content should be well-thought out and easily to follow and understand. Grouping content to relate back to each goal set out in your objectives is the best way to keep learning on track and leaners engaged.

Utilising one of the learning theories described in this post, develop a method for engaging learners through the content and displaying concepts in a way that will help logical reasoning.

Online support and guidance

Phone support concept

When learning new content and skills, it is important to offer additional support or resources to enhance learning.

Our Manager Dashboard is easy to use and offers guided support to your learners. Learners can message you or another team member for one-on-one support or you can add additional documents and resources on the LMS dashboard to assist learners.

Elicit a response

Gagne explains that after offering support, learners should demonstrate that they have learnt and understood the content.

This can be achieved through assessments or scenario branching. Scenarios offer learners a mapped experience that may occur in a real-world setting.


Feedback business meeting

Assigning risks and capabilities to assessment answers allows learners to receive instant feedback on their knowledge. Further feedback from administrators can help identify gaps in skills and help create a plan to improve in the future.

Performance management is a key aspect of an organisation’s success, which can be achieved through feedback and continual improvement. Offering personal feedback keeps learners actively participating in their own learning and improves employee morale.

Assessing is key

Man pondering on laptop

Frequent assessments help learners gauge progress and keep on track with objectives. Getting through a whole course only to find out you didn’t understand the content will just ruin learners’ confidence and you will not see much success with your course.

Short assessments, surveys and even short activities allow learners to either be assessed or self-assess their progress with the objectives.

Keep content tied to the real world

Great content falls flat if learners cannot replicate their knowledge in real life applications.

Offering case studies allows learners to see what the knowledge can achieve beyond the boundaries of a learning environment. Stories from professionals and final real-world activities are great ways to fully integrate the objectives and knowledge learnt form the course.

Woman looking at tablet

eLearning is a great way to improve skills and gain valuable knowledge that can be translated into careers. Instructional designers should always keep this in mind when creating content and break away from the structured click-and-scroll method to eLearning.