In Qstream’s Content Development Webinar Series, we’ve reviewed The Science Behind Successful Learning and the background to Creating Effective Qstream Content. This post looks at the last session in the series, Optimizing your Qstream Content for Better Results.

We explored the following three topics in the webinar:

  1. Creating challenging microlearning content.
  2. Designing scenario-based questions to engage learners for proven proficiency gain.
  3. Using video responses most effectively in microlearning content.

Familiarity Breeds Forgetfulness

The challenge starts with the deceptive fact that people assume the easier it is to learn something, the more likely you are to remember it. But people who work in learning and enablement roles know that the opposite is, in fact, the case: familiarity breeds forgetfulness. Many studies show that people don’t actually remember the things they are routinely exposed to.

In 1979, Raymond Nickerson and Marilyn Adams demonstrated this phenomenon in their research findings known as the Penny Memory Test. They found that, “the visual details of an object, even a very familiar object, are typically available from memory only to the extent that they are useful in everyday life.” One of the tests included in the research presented 12 different images of a penny, with only one correct. Despite being such a familiar object, people found it very difficult to say with confidence which penny was correct, even with seeing the object every day.

A safety study by researchers from UCLA had similar findings. When the researchers asked students, faculty and office workers to identify the location of the nearest fire extinguisher, most failed the test.  One professor, who’d been on the faculty staff for 15 years, later discovered an extinguisher directly outside his office door, just inches from the doorknob he turned multiple times a day!

These studies dispel the myth that familiarity and ease of learning are prerequisites to knowledge retention. In fact, studies show that the more effortful it is to learn and process information, the more likely a person is to remember it.

If familiarity breeds forgetfulness, our mission is to create microlearning content that is truly memorable. Here we look at how to create Qstream content that truly challenges your participants. We also explore how scenario and video-based questions are the pinnacle of this type of content, as they engage many parts of the brain necessary for active learning.

Creating Challenging Microlearning Content

The Qstream Client Services team has developed best practices for creating microlearning content that challenges participants and therefore holds their interest. Here are some of the methods we’ve used to help Qstream clients drive higher engagement and deliver proven results:

  • Use Multiple Correct Answers to a Question: it is harder to pick three correct answers versus having to just choose one. Asking the learner to select multiple correct answers adds a level of difficulty that promotes active learning.
  • Disable Prompts: disabling prompts that indicate how many correct answer choices there are to select encourages active thinking.
  • Create Timed Questions: adding a timer to questions, particularly questions which are easy to guess, adds urgency and engagement to the learning process.
  • Remove True and False Questions: minimize use of True & False type questions as these are easy to guess and offer very little learning.
  • Use Red Herrings: using red herrings (seemingly important pieces of information) in your Qstream questions allows you to add greater depth and complexity to your answer choices. Learners need to consider and interpret these additional pieces of information when selecting an answer.

In addition to these best practices, there are two methods to optimize content that deserve particular attention: scenario-based questions and video role-play questions.

Scenario-Based Questions: A Driver for Real Knowledge Reinforcement

Scenario-based questions are hypothetical stories that require participants to think through complex problems or situations. People are far more likely to remember things in the context of scenario-based thinking so that they recall how they acted, what they did, and what they said in certain situations. 

For optimum results, scenario-based learning questions should:

  • Focus on the problems the learner might face when performing non-routine tasks.
  • Help reveal how participants might think through a situation. This can be used to design future scenarios. For example, if most respondents answer incorrectly, this can serve as an indicator for future learning needs and investments.
  • Rely on active decision-making.
  • Test high skills (e.g., negotiation, analysis, evaluation).
  • Provide a believable scenario that participants can relate to and will therefore increase engagement.

Designing effective scenarios that are true-to-life is proven to increase knowledge retention. The reason why scenario-based questions are so effective is that they:

  • Provide retrieval practice.
  • Give context and help build on prior knowledge.
  • Provide an opportunity for problem solving and in so doing use different parts of the brain that commit knowledge to longer term memory.
  • Drive reflective practice which encourage learners to think about or reflect on what they did and what they might do differently next time.
  • Make the abstract personal because participants believe they may one day need to recall this information in a real-life setting and are therefore more likely to remember it.

Video Role-Play Challenges

Video based microlearning is when a learner records their response to a scenario and provides an opportunity to express learning in their own words. This is known as the elaboration memory technique and commits learning to long term memory by linking the new knowledge to previous knowledge. Recording a video challenge is also very effortful for the learner and so further ensures knowledge retention.

Best practices in creating video microlearning challenges include:

  • No right or wrong answer: this is not a right or wrong answer type question which means it is important to compose questions that elicit a verbal response from your learners.
  • Focus on quality response: portray a scenario or pose a challenge that gives insights into how a learner might respond and what they might say in a given situation.
  • Not overly complex: while it’s important to create a realistic problem, you must ensure that the challenge is not overly complex as learners only have a limited time to respond. 

Optimized Content for Optimal Outcomes

The suggestion here and throughout the Content Development Webinar Series is that to achieve optimum results you need to create content that really challenges your participants and offers them variety in content that exercises multiple parts of their brain. Qstream Customers see an average increase in proficiency of 25% and average learner engagement of 90%.  These numbers are impressive because Qstream customers who closely follow the principles and best practices outlined here, often see even higher results. In some cases, many customers see 100% learner engagement levels. In short, optimizing microlearning content results in better learning outcomes – and a superior learning experience.

Watch the final webinar, Optimizing your Qstream Content for Better Results, here!

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