Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

23 May 2013

Extending Learning

Clark @ 4:25 AM

At the just concluded ASTD International Conference and Exhibition, on exhibit were, finally, two instances of something that should’ve been obvious. And I’m not alone in having waited.

SpacedPracticeSeveral years ago, Dr. Will Thalheimer was touting a ‘learning follow-on’ solution, a mechanism to continue to reactivate knowledge after a learning experience. He’s talked about the spacing effect (even providing the basis for a diagram in Designing mLearning), drawing upon his experience as one of our best proponents of evidence-based learning design. We know that reactivation leads to better outcomes, whether seeing a re-representation of the concept, a new example (ideally in another context), and most usefully, having more practice. I’m not aware of how the solution he was touting at the time, but as we really haven’t seen any significant awareness raising, I’m not optimistic.

However, at the conference were two separate examples of such systems. They worked differently, but that they exist at all is a positive outcome. Both used diagrams (e.g. Ebbinghaus forgetting curve) to show the effects of memory over time, and it’s apt that the problem is real. If we just use the traditional event model, things are likely to be gone a few days later if it’s not immediately put into action. That doesn’t characterize many of our learning outcomes.

The solutions were different, of course. One used mobile technology to provide reminders and access to content. The other used the web. Both basically provided the same opportunity. I didn’t evaluate the relative costs, ease of integration, etc, but having such capability is great. It’s something that folks could arrange for themselves, but as yet I haven’t really seen it, at least not in a systematic way.

They still separate solutions, not integrated, but it’s reason for hope. It’s surprising no one’s baked it into their LMS, but there you go. At least we’re seeing the beginning of awareness, and hopefully we’ll get more.


  1. Per a question via Twitter, the two companies are Mindsetter and Mindmarker. Which is an endorsement nor indictment of either ;).

    Comment by Clark — 23 May 2013 @ 1:00 PM

  2. Cool. Thanks for providing the info. Question: Does how the Learning (event) happened (ILT, elearning, etc) happen figure into it? At the basic training academy here I do development months can pass from the (course) event to putting it to use in the field. How much time passes over the X axis?

    Comment by urbie delgado — 25 May 2013 @ 10:12 AM

  3. Urbie, as Will points out in his article on spacing learning – http://willthalheimer.typepad.com/files/spacing_learning_over_time_2006.pdf – the amount of practice and intervals between depend on a number of factors including: how complex the skill is, how often the opportunity occurs, how important error free performance is, etc. For something that may not occur for months, you’d first be better moving the training closer to the time of application ;), but a gut check says you’d need quite a bit of practice to keep it active that long. Is this an opportunity for a job aid? How much can be in the world instead of in the head?

    Comment by Clark — 26 May 2013 @ 8:13 AM

  4. Absolutely true. The most successful systematic changes in behaviour I’ve seen have all had training events accompanied by the installation of triggers in the work environment so that people recognise what of their new skills they need to use and when. Mobile technology offers new, wonderful, low cost ways of enabling such triggers. In the future, we will increasingly become less tolerant of training events which do NOT come with some form of post-event trigger and support.

    Comment by Mike Bird — 28 May 2013 @ 3:46 PM

  5. Clark, it’s great to see that we’re extending the use of learning technologies beyond simply replicating the classroom intervention. Mobile and web technologies are particularly suited to providing prompts, nudges and reminders to keep people up to speed with what they’ve learnt. Will Thalheimer’s practice model is useful, but there are others which simply prompt people to remember what they have learnt. As you say, hopefully this is the beginning of awareness that will become industry standard.

    Comment by Ara Ohanian — 29 May 2013 @ 5:23 AM

  6. In implementing the reactivation curve, there’s a lot the learning profession can learn from the advertising industry. The main purpose of most advertising is to remind the consumer of the brand’s existence and value proposition. It seems similar techniques would be effective in “nudging and reminding” learners.

    Comment by Jeff Walter — 29 May 2013 @ 7:57 AM

  7. The trainees I support are very mobile; their workplaces are often far removed from technologies like the Internet, cell phone service and electrical power. They really have to rely on what’s in their head.

    Having said that, after learning about Positive Deviance and completing a MOOC on crash creativity through Stanford University’s Venture Lab I’m in the process of reframing the problem. I’m sure it’s going to take some time but I’ve starting counting (anything) and asking questions. So maybe a job-aid is possible. I think it’s cool (though a little scary) to say that I don’t know, at this point, how things might turn out.


    Comment by urbie delgado — 6 June 2013 @ 8:36 AM

  8. […] Quinn’s Learnlets blog post on Extending Learning, he gives a fascinating graph on how mLearning can contribute to the retention of knowledge through […]

    Pingback by Review of Clark Quinn’s (2011) Mobile Learning: Landscape and Trends. | Barish Golland — 20 August 2013 @ 3:42 AM

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