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Conquering the Forgetting Curve with Immersive Technology

Training Industry, Inc. recently released a report stating that over $300 billion in corporate investment is lost each year as a result of insufficient training. The report revealed that, as a result of a training approach that requires knowledge recall without immediate and consistent reinforcement of knowledge learnt, and without a practical means of translating that knowledge into on-the-job behaviour, 90% of that corporate training knowledge is forgotten within two months of training.

The problem with the traditional training approach

One of the core problems with the standard approach to training is that it invokes a multi-step learning process. Learners not only need to learn the material that is presented in textbooks and slideshow presentations, but they also need to learn how to transfer that knowledge into a practical work setting. That means 1) learning the information; 2) learning the application of the information in a practical setting; and 3) learning how to extrapolate the fundamentals of that learned knowledge into an abstract concept that can be adapted and applied to different situations that may not resemble the textbook examples.

This multi-step learning process not only poses a challenge for individuals who may have different learning abilities (individuals who identify and are identified as lower-level learners have actually been found to match and even exceed their higher-learner colleagues in an immersive training environment), but it also causes training retention to deteriorate over time, a phenomenon that has been termed the “Forgetting Curve.”

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve

The forgetting curve was theorized in 1885 by Herman Ebbinghaus, who observed that the brain demonstrated a consistent and exponential decrease in its ability to retain memory over time. In other words, the more time passes following the initial formation of the memory, the less is remembered. This theory is corroborated in numerous studies, where it is demonstrated that individuals will forget as much as 90% of course content within months of training.

Ebbinghaus further theorized that the length of time during which something can be remembered is directly dependent upon the strength of that memory. In order for something to be remembered well into the long-term, the initial piece of information needs to be strengthened, either through the continuous review of that knowledge, or by allowing that information to be learned in a strong, impactful way.

Mitigating knowledge loss with immersive training

Immersive training follows the “preparation for future learning,” or “learner-centric” model, and this model addresses both the multi-stage learning process and the need for more memorable learning experiences. Instead of being required to extrapolate from and transfer textbook knowledge to practical job-site experiences, with immersive training, students learn the required material in the necessary context: a realistic simulation of the job site environment. Being immersed in a 3D training environment provides real-world context, eliminating the need for the trainee to apply abstract knowledge transfer skills. Instead, trainees can both learn and apply their learned knowledge simultaneously.

Immersive learning is proven to enhance retention, and thus the cost-benefit of corporate training.

Further, immersive training environments offer more engaging training experiences. Immersive technologies enable learners to learn by doing using their eyes, hands, muscle memory, and psychomotor skills, and by perceiving the critical impacts of their actions in realistic 3D simulated training environments. This allows them to learn in the correct training context while safely making mistakes that demonstrate true-to-life consequences.

Trainees are thus required to structure their own learning process by exploring and problem solving in the context of realistic job site environments, and that both eliminates the possibility for passive learning and creates a more powerful learning memory that has a significantly higher and more lasting rate of retention. The result? A 100% attention rate with a resulting 75-90% rate of knowledge retention.

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