In this blog article, we explore how learning and development professionals can create engaging learning experiences that increase knowledge retention through extended learning. We will also give you some helpful tips and insights taken from a real-life case-study as to how you can apply to extend learning through learner journeys and participatory teaching methods. 

What is extended learning and why is it important?

Through eLearning courses, we provide training to change or improve the knowledge-base, skillset and behaviours of employees.  We can design standalone eLearning programmes aimed at doing this, but evidence shows that we forget 50% of the information presented within one day, and about 90% of it within one week (Ebbinghaus, 1885. Memory. A Contribution to Experimental Psychology).

The Forgetting Curve.jpg

Training and development is resource-intensive in terms of time and money and therefore learning and development professionals have a clear challenge of finding ways to mitigate the impacts of Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve through extended learning.

How to create extended learning in eLearning

So how do we create training that provides opportunities for further learning and most importantly, for retaining and applying that learning in the workplace?

This can be done in a couple of ways. Firstly, we forget about designing a standalone program that leaves employees with no direction on what to do next, and instead, we create a learning pathway that encourages them to apply their learning and share it with others.

Secondly, we create engaging learning experiences throughout the learners’ pathway using different interactions and media types instead of traditional forms of learning where learners are dictated to or simply read resources.

What is a learning pathway

Learning pathways are commonly used with learning management systems but can also be used to guide eLearning courses in general. Learning paths are courses or learning resources which are grouped together to create an engaging and enriched experience for learners. Learning paths have a number of benefits including:

  • Greater structure for learners
  • Increased learning potential as learners next steps are clear
  • Increased engagement as learners are clearly guided through the learning path

How to create learning pathways

To create an effective learning pathway, it helps to first look at how people learn. The Learning Pyramid shows that the average retention rate of people who partake in passive teaching methods such as lectures, reading and audio-visual presentations are relatively low (5%, 10% and 20% respectively). Whereas, the average retention rates of people who partake in participatory teaching methods such as group discussion, practice and teaching others are relatively high (50%, 75% and 90% respectively).

The Learning Pyramid.jpg

We can conclude from the learning retention rates outlined in the learning pyramid that by incorporating more participatory teaching methods such as teaching others in eLearning courses and programmes, knowledge retention will be increased and learners will remember more of what they have learned than if the eLearning course was taught with passive teaching methods alone.

How to include participatory teaching methods into your learning pathway

When used together, participatory teaching methods and learning pathways create experiences that extend learning and reduce the impact of the forgetting curve. But what is the best way that you can incorporate these two learning elements into your eLearning programmes?

Here are a couple of ways that you can create optimal retention in your eLearning courses followed by a case study of how we created extended learning and learning pathways healthcare professionals working in the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland.  

  • Foster a culture of learning within the organisation:
    • Learning must be promoted at all levels of the organization. The number one reason employees hold back from learning is because they don’t have the time according to LinkedIn. As a result, any learning employees take may be rushed to get the ‘tick in the box’ and therefore no learning has been achieved.
  • Choose the type of learner path you would like to give learners:
    • If the learning requires more structure in which case a sequential approach would be more beneficial. A sequential approach requires the learner to complete each course or topic in a predetermined order and this type of approach would work best if the basics of the topic must be taught first before moving into more in-depth materials e.g. introduction to marketing, GDPR, equality and diversity etc.
    • Alternatively, you can let learners choose which courses they would like to complete and in which order giving a greater sense of ownership to the learner. This type of pathway could be used if there is no importance on the order of completion but has the benefit of keeping the learner engaged as they work through the course.
  • Choose a mix of media types to ensure the user is not just going through the motions:
    • Challenge their learning and force them to remember what they have learned through assessments. By recalling what they have been taught learning can be embedded in the brain.
    • Use relatable scenarios within the course to leverage participation in order to boost learning retention.
    • Give learners on-demand resources that they can reference after they have completed the course. These could be worksheets, templates, cheat sheets, handy guides etc.
    • Send learners bite-sized reminder emails of the most important learnings post-completion to reduce the impact of the forgetting curve. This could also take the form of a ‘check your knowledge’ assessment or reflection on how learnings have been applied in real life
  • Use blended learning to consolidate learning:
    • Time and resources permitting, you could have follow-up face-to-face sessions which could incorporate a number of passive and participatory teaching methods such as a recap of what was learned followed by group discussions
  • Give learners an online forum where they can share ideas and learnings:
    • To facilitate the ‘group discussion’ aspect of the Learning Pyramid, setting up a forum where learners can discuss what they have learnt and share experiences of their applied learning can help to extend and embed knowledge. This gets employees talking about what works and doesn’t work in practice, and provides a platform to get answers.
    • In future we will likely see an increase in chatbots used in eLearning where learners can get answers and ask questions, mimicking the effects of social learning
  • Assign mentors:
    • This could be via an online forum or in a classroom setting if using a blended learning approach and gives an opportunity for learners to ask questions and receive feedback

Extended learning case study: HSE - Making Every Contact Count 

MECC Case Study.jpg

Making Every Contact Count is a national eLearning training programme focused on behaviour change through six 30 minute eLearning modules. The programme focuses on topics including smoking, alcohol, drugs and healthy eating and provides effective tools and knowledge to all HSE healthcare professions so that they are equipped to make brief interventions with patients.

Making Every Contact Count incorporates a range of learning mediums including video, scenarios, quizzes, self-assessments and reflective work to engage learners and help to embed learning, tapping into the participatory teaching aspects of the learning pyramid.

At Aurion Learning, we make it standard practice to incorporate the principles of extended learning into our eLearning programmes through our tried and tested ‘Do more, learn more, advise more’ approach to learning. In addition, following completion of the six eLearning modules learners have the opportunity to extend their learning with a classroom-based workshop.


To date, more than 2,000 HSE staff have completed the eLearning modules with hundreds of additional staff working through the Making Every Contact Count modules regularly. 300 staff to date have attended the follow on ‘Enhancing your Brief Intervention skills workshop’ with regular workshops scheduled to reinforce and extend learning.

Learn and read more about the Making Every Contact Count case study

We would love to hear your thoughts on how you plan to extend learning in your learning and development programmes.

Alternatively, if you are unsure where to start with extended learning, Aurion has a team of instructional designers and learning experts who can assist and guide you to your learning goals. Contact us to talk to a member of our team. 

If you'd like to create effective remote learning activitiesgrab an online seat and join us for the last of our how-to webinar series and learn how to structure workplace learning activities for remote learning.      

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