Training Reinforcement: 7 Things You Need to Know

training reinforcement

Organizations expend constant effort to deliver information employees need to know for their jobs. And oftentimes, there’s a lot at stake. You depend on training to help your employees make more sales, provide better customer service, avoid regulatory issues, and make fewer mistakes.

But training has no value if we can’t retrieve the information we’re taught. Training reinforcement is essential to ensure that knowledge and skills learned in training are applied on the job. If you are new to training reinforcement or a bit unfamiliar, here are seven key things to know. Think of these facts as tips that will help your learners recall the right information when they need it.

1. The goal of training reinforcement is to beat the forgetting curve.

There are lots of reasons why it’s difficult to overcome Herman Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve. His original research, which has since been replicated on several occasions, shows that our brains are wired to forget things without repeated exposure and practice. Essentially, learners can forget up to 90% of what they learn without reinforcement. It’s not a pretty statistic.

The Forgetting Curve

The Forgetting Curve. Image Credit: Elearning! Magazine

Luckily, there are proven strategies that help people remember. Training reinforcement is one such strategy. It’s a critical piece of the learning and remembering equation, which brings me to my next point…

2. Training reinforcement should be designed based on the science of learning and remembering.

Below, I mention some exciting new learning tech trends you can use as part of training reinforcement. But before we get to that, we have to understand what makes these technologies useful for learning. We must consider the importance of learning science – the backbone of sound instructional design. You can invest in all the flashy new technology in the world! But if you design training reinforcement without considering the underlying science of how the human brain retains information, you put your training efforts at risk.

Spaced repetition and distributed practice, for example, are significant components to help someone actually use what you are trying to teach them. Information that is presented over spaced intervals is learned and retained more easily and effectively. Retrieval practice is another good example. The more your learners have to “retrieve” or call information to mind, the less likely they are to forget it. For this reason, it’s important for employees to experience training on the actual job site and not just in the classroom.

3. Games and gamification can make training reinforcement more motivating and engaging.

The struggle is real… we know it’s a constant battle to create solutions that actually motivate your learners to take training. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It may be time to “up your game” with games and gamification. Our 2018 Learning Trends Report revealed that more and more L&D professionals are actually including games and gamification in their training. We see game-based learning as having wide application across many delivery options—mobile, Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR), eLearning, and even old-fashioned Instructor-Led Training (ILT), live and online. This could be a “game changer” for your organization.

4. Mobile is often the ideal delivery method for training reinforcement.

Once your training event is over, your learners need to be able to access information quickly and easily. What better way to do that than by making reinforcement available on mobile devices? Apps can be awesome reinforcement tools to support live or online training that is more “traditional” (e.g. take it on a laptop, click through lots of content).

5. Adaptive learning can personalize training reinforcement to learners’ individual needs.

The more personalized your training reinforcement is to each learner, the more effective your overall training initiative will be. We built our Knowledge Guru Drive app as a training reinforcement tool to help learners build both confidence and competence.


In the app, learners complete a short confidence assessment, then receive customized mini-games they play each day. Drive adapts to learners over time to help them master their weakest areas and build on their strengths. Drive’s confidence assessment allows you to accurately gauge your learners’ confidence in key areas and grow it alongside their knowledge and skills.

See Training Reinforcement in Action! Get a tour
of the Knowledge Guru Platform.

6. Conversational AI is opening up new possibilities for training reinforcement.

Artificial intelligence is here, the devices are readily available, and there are plenty of use cases where it makes sense for training reinforcement. You could consider creating an app, for example, where learners can ask questions about a particular product or process and get quick answers. Voice commands could help sales reps out in the field who need a quick answer while driving to meet a customer.

You can also create a chatbot that answers common questions via text. For example, a learner could text the bot a question and receive an answer without having to log into the LMS to look for it. You can even program the bot to forward questions it cannot answer to your training team for further support.

7. Training reinforcement needs to be carefully positioned as part of the learner’s overall experience.

When you design a training curriculum, you want to create a cohesive experience that is beneficial to your learners from start to finish. So how do we get to an optimal learning experience? How do we bring the target learner back into the design process in a way that is actually feasible for a business? A blend of traditional instructional design with design thinking tools may be part of the solution. Design thinking produces solutions through an iterative process of observation, insight, ideation, experimentation, and testing. Its goal is to create solutions that find the sweet spot between learner needs and preferences, business needs and the technology that’s most viable.

Upcoming Webinar

In our upcoming webinar, Learning Trends in 2018: Present Realities vs. Future Possibilities, we will provide an in-depth analysis and discussion of this year’s trending tech and training solutions.

Learning Science Word Salad: 14 Terms to Know


What percentage of your learning content are you okay with people forgetting?

This is a question we often ask our clients. We ask this because we often see companies that want to take massive amounts of content and squeeze it into a 30-minute eLearning course. Or organizations who want to squeeze a 30-minute eLearning course into a 5-minute “microlearning experience.”

Organizations expect their employees to learn and remember everything. And we get it. You don’t want to spend a bunch of time and money to create and implement a learning solution that no one will remember. Yet stakeholders and designers make choices every day that hinder training efforts and result in wasted dollars that produce no result. Learners take a training course, but don’t apply what they learned because they don’t remember what they were taught.

If it’s so easy to forget, how do we get people to remember? We know from experience that short-term learning strategies aren’t the best solution. This is why learning science must be carefully considered during the instructional design process.

But what does the term learning science really mean? Essentially, learning science helps guide instructional design so that learners retain more knowledge for longer periods of time.

The problem with learning science is that there are many different terms out there. Some terms are really the same thing called by a different name. Others have questionable efficacy. As an instructional designer, where do you begin?

Well, hopefully this post is a great place to start. I have gathered 14 of the most common terms, some of which are very similar to each other. We hope they help you get a better understanding of learning science and why it’s important.

Cognitive Load


Have you ever felt like your brain was about to explode after studying all night for a big exam? If so, you probably reached your maximum cognitive load. Cognitive load is the amount of mental activity exerted on your working memory at any one time.

Working memory is the part of the brain we use for learning. But working memory is easy to overload, especially when we study complex subjects or perform complicated tasks. It can only hold three to five pieces of information at a time, so we forget most of the information we process in working memory. Our long-term memory is where we store things we want to remember. Unfortunately, memories that aren’t used quickly fade.

For this reason, learning and remembering requires a lot of effort. To help ease the cognitive load on your learners, Connie Malamed suggests two things instructional designers can focus on to free working memory capacity.

Feedback Loops

Feedback loops give people immediate information about their actions and give them a chance to change those actions.

In Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops, Thomas Goetz says:

“The true power of feedback loops is not to control people but to give them control. It’s like the difference between a speed trap and a speed feedback sign—one is a game of gotcha, the other is a gentle reminder of the rules of the road. The ideal feedback loop gives us an emotional connection to a rational goal.”

If you want to incorporate feedback in your next training program, we recommend the following:

Give learners feedback at the point where they make a mistake and require them to correct the mistake before they can move on. This ensures they embed the “correct” way to respond or to perform something rather than embedding incorrect responses. Also make sure feedback specifies exactly what the learner did wrong or offers a clear cue that the learner was successful.

Games are great tools because they typically offer rich, continual feedback to game players. Positive feedback in games can be provided in the form of rewards such as points, badges, and other achievements. Negative feedback can equal lost points and, most importantly, guidance on the misstep and a chance to complete the challenge again. Our Knowledge Guru platform is a great example of how the feedback loops in games can help people remember.

Forgetting Curve

The Forgetting Curve

The Forgetting Curve. Image Credit: Elearning! Magazine

In 1885, Herman Ebbinghaus was the first to suggest that reinforcement and repetition are critical to memory. He came up with the concept of the “forgetting curve.” He hypothesized that people will forget 90% of what they learn within about six days unless multiple repetitions reinforce the learning.

Subsequent research shows that the forgetting curve is actually quite variable and not set at 90%. Forgetting is also not limited to the classroom but applies widely to our daily lives and the workplace. Your learners, for example, may forget up to 90% of what you teach them. But what matters most is recognizing the proven strategies that help people remember. Effective strategies include the use of spaced learning and retrieval practice, repetition, and feedback (all words you can learn more about in this post!).


Interleaving practice involves working on multiple skills at a time. You can’t work on the same type of problem back-to-back. Block practice, on the other hand, is when you focus on learning only one skill at a time.


If you want to learn skills A, B and C then block practice may look something like Figure 1. When you practice only skill A over and over, your brain already knows what’s coming next and doesn’t have to exert as much mental energy. With interleaved practice, you’re forced to figure out what skill each problem calls for. Interleaved practice may look like Figure 2 (in series) or Figure 3 (randomized). Research shows this makes the brain focus more intensely, which increases knowledge retention.

Knowledge Guru’s Quest App is a good example of interleaving. Each world presents different iterations of the same question so that learners never see the same question in one session of play.


In psychology, priming is an unconscious form of human memory that deals with word and object identification. Your memory triggers certain representations or associations right before you perform an action or task. For example, a person who sees the word “green” (the primer) will recognize the word “grass” slightly faster. This is because priming increases the speed at which a second, related item (like grass) is identified.

A primer in a curriculum design could be some kind of pre-work employees must complete before they attend an instructor-led training (ILT) course. By exposing learners to the content before a training session, they are more likely to recognize correct answers in the actual session and be able to thoughtfully participate.

Principles of Primacy, Recency, and Difference

The premise behind the principle of primacy is simple: We generally remember the first thing we see or hear and the last thing we see or hear. The principle of recency is similar in that people remember things that happened only a few moments ago much better than things that happened a long time ago. In order to cement new knowledge, people need lots of both primacy and recency. Including irrelevant information with relevant information reduces a person’s ability to remember any information.

The principle of difference says that people tend to remember things that are unique or stand out from the crowd, so to speak. For example, let’s say you give your employees a safety pamphlet and expect them to read it and remember everything on the job… but you’re not seeing results. In this case, we might recommend a learning game, which allows learners to experience the safety risks and consequences in a safe environment. It also allows them to make emotional connections and emotion is key for embedding memory. So don’t be afraid to switch it up a bit and try something different with your own training methods.

Retrieval Practice

Retrieval practice involves recreating something from your memory that you learned in the past, and using it in the present. I like the way Smith and Weinstein describe it:

“A while after you’ve learned something by reading it in a book or hearing it in a class or from a teacher, you need to bring it to mind (or “retrieve” it). The word after is really important; you need to forget the information at least a little in order for retrieval to be effective!”

Essentially, you don’t want learners to recite what they learn in a classroom or eLearning module right away. Instead, you want them to bring the information to mind on their own later. You need learners to be able to recall information and apply it on the job. The more your learners have to “retrieve” or call this information to mind, the less likely they are to forget it. For this reason, it’s important for employees to experience training on the actual job site and not just in the classroom. Karl Kapp gives an excellent description of retrieval practice here.


Scaffolding simply means breaking up learning into smaller, more manageable pieces and providing a tool or structure with each piece. For example, when scaffolding reading, you might preview the text and discuss key vocabulary, or chunk the text and read and discuss as you go. The goal is to move learners towards stronger understanding and greater independence in the learning process.


The Glossary of Education Reform uses physical scaffolding as an example. In physical scaffolding, the supportive elements are slowly removed as they’re no longer needed. Similarly, a teacher may gradually shift more responsibility over the learning process to the student. This is especially relatable when organizations onboard new employees. You want to help employees get started and provide them with all the necessary resources, but you can’t hand-hold forever. You have to slowly let go and let the learner take control of their own education and career development.

Spaced Repetition


In our Primer on Spaced Learning and Repetition white paper, Steven Boller discusses some learning strategies for long-term retention. One such strategy is spaced repetition. Spaced repetition typically involves the following instructional methods:

  • Chunk content into “micro-spacings” within a single learning event.
  • Repeat content over a longer period of time, with “macro-spacings” of a few days or weeks between each learning event.
  • Present the same information in a different format or context for each repetition.

The key to long-term knowledge retention is not the amount of time spent learning, but the amount of time between learning. We learn best when our brain cells are switched on and off, with short periods of learning and breaks in between. By switching your learner’s brain cells “on” (during learning) and “off” again (during breaks), the learner’s unconscious has time to internalize the knowledge and the repetition results in long term memories. Longer breaks between teaching sessions may also result in longer-lasting memories.

Spacing Effect/Spaced Learning

Similar to spaced repetition, the spacing effect says information that is presented over spaced intervals is learned and retained more easily and effectively. Several studies show that learning and retention improves when multiple exposures to information are spaced over time than when the same number of exposures occurs consecutively in immediate succession. For example, Dempster (1987) found that students remembered more vocabulary definitions when a term and definition were repeated every five minutes, rather than when the same term and definition were repeated back-to-back.

Successive Relearning

Successive relearning involves testing yourself until you can accurately remember the target information from memory. Ideally, learners should be able to do this in more than one practice session. The critical part of successive relearning is that all the old concepts are relearned in the next study session (and in the next three to four study sessions).

Truthfully, it may take learners a large amount of time to learn difficult concepts well enough to retrieve them in a practice scenario. But don’t fret. Relearning them in later sessions is easy—that is, learners will quickly relearn what they already retrieved in prior sessions.

Testing Effect

Research shows that repeated testing is better than repeated studying. Taking a test on previously studied material leads to better long-term retention. This is because you have to immediately retrieve information stored in your memory. Thus, the testing effect and retrieval practice are often used interchangeably.

Most studies find that people remember 50% more of learned information by testing themselves instead of using that same amount of time to study. For example, Figure 4 shows the results from an analysis that found a score difference of 67% with testing compared to 45% with studying.


Figure 4

Using flashcards, reading, and taking notes all count as studying. Testing, on the other hand, forces you to remember information on the spot. So make sure to incorporate some type of quiz or test at the end of each learning module you present to your learners.

Instructional Design

Instructional design refers to a systematic approach to designing instruction and basing that design on learning science principles. Although instructional design doesn’t count as a learning science term per se, you’d be surprised at how many people have no idea what this term means.

Learning Styles

Be careful when discussing learning styles! It’s no secret that people have different stated preferences for how they like to learn. However, there is no proof to show that designing learning to these preferences improves learning outcomes.

In this article, Sharon Boller says that what a person “needs” in terms of instructional design depends on many factors such as prior knowledge, readiness to learn, motivation, etc… but not on a preferred learning style. She recommends taking time to understand the needs of your particular learner group before you start curriculum design.

Microlearning Madness: 25 Great Resources


Over the last five to ten years, corporate learning professionals have scrambled to engage their learners in an increasingly digital world. Learning trends such as mobile, gamification, game-based learning, performance support, use of learning science and interactive video are all attempts to capture learner attention and engage them on a deeper level. With so many distractions to compete with, learner attention comes at a premium. Training has to be engaging for it to stick.

Recently, these learning trends and delivery methods have converged to make a new trend, microlearning, possible. With time available for training and learners’ patience for cumbersome learning experiences decreasing, there is more pressure than ever before for L&D professionals to deliver bite-sized training that is highly effective.

At its best, microlearning leverages learning science to space out content and build long term memory. It helps learners build on knowledge they already have and provides immediate access to short, targeted lessons and support materials. At its worst, it becomes another distraction to ignore.

We’ve compiled 25 of our favorite microlearning articles to make it easier to learn about “bite-sized learning” and implement it effectively. This article isn’t going anywhere, so bookmark it for reference and come back whenever you need more inspiration!

Our 25 Favorite Microlearning Resources

  1. How to Make Microlearning Matter – Annie Murphy Paul, (Link)
  2. Microlearning: Fab or fad? – Tom Spiglanin, (Link)
  3. The Myth of Micro-Learning – Sharon Boller, Bottom-Line Performance (Link)
  4. Defining Microlearning? – Clark Quinn, Learnlets (Link)
  5. Microlearning: What It Is and What It Isn’t – Holly Hilton, Bottom-Line Performance (Link)
  6. 5 Learning Trends to Watch in the Next 5 Years – Karl Kapp, (Link)
  7. Micro-learning as a workplace learning strategy: Sahan Chattopadhyay, ID and Other Reflections (Link)
  8. Is Microlearning a Myth? Sharon Boller, ATD Press (Link)
  9. Is Micro-Learning the Solution You Need? – by Connie Malamed, The eLearning Coach (Link)
  10. Why companies are moving to microlearning platforms for training, Simon T Bailey, The Business Journals (Link)
  11. Can Micro-Learning help stressed, unmotivated learners? – Sharon Boller, Bottom-Line Performance (Link)
  12. Enterprise Microlearning – Marcia Conner, (Link)
  13. 4 Steps to Microlearning Mastery – Brian Bishop, (Link)
  14. Micro-learning: Its role in formal, informal and incidental learning Sahan Chattopadhyay, ID and Other Reflections (Link)
  15. MicroLearning on a Mobile Device – Jennifer S Beaudin, Stephen S. Intille, Margaret E. Morris – MIT (Link)
  16. Microlearning in Mobile and Flipped Contexts – Educause (Link)
  17. Microlearning – Edutech Wiki (Link)
  18. Ideal Learning Event – Karl Kapp, KappNotes (Link)
  19. Microlearning: Best Practices for Corporations – Monica Singh, General Assembly (Link)
  20. What is Micro-Learning? – Articulate “E-learning Heroes” blog (Link)
  21. From Courses to Micro-Learning – Sahan Chattopadhyay, ID and Other Reflections (Link)
  22. The Story Behind Micro-Learning – David Cutler, Spin Education (Link)
  23. The MicroLearning trend: Accommodating cultural and cognitive shifts – Jeff Fernandez, Learning Solutions Magazine (Link)
  24. Gaming, Micro-Learning and Mobile: The Perfect Trio – Steven Boller, Knowledge Guru by BLP (Link)
  25. 7 Tips to Create Memorable Microlearning Online Training – Christopher Pappas, eLearningIndustry (Link)

Our Knowledge Guru platform combines microlearning, games and mobile reinforcement.

Survey Says: Knowledge Transfer and Retention are Big Issues for L&D Professionals

learning and remembering survey results

We recently released the results of our Learning and Remembering Survey on the Bottom-Line Performance website. The survey asked two open-ended questions:

1. What knowledge do your employees need to remember to be successful in their jobs?

2. What challenges do you face when delivering training that helps employees remember this knowledge?

The survey had 34 respondents across 21 different industries…. most of them from Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 companies. Many of the respondents were current clients: organizations for whom we create custom learning solutions. Others were Knowledge Guru customers, and still more were corporate learning professionals who subscribe to our newsletter.

77% of respondents said that some form of fact-based knowledge was critical to employee performance on the job. Process, procedures, product knowledge and compliance information were all mentioned frequently.

Learning and remembering survey- process, procedure, product knowledge leads the way

The challenge? Getting employees to actually remember all of this information is hard. Respondents frequently cited knowledge transfer and retention as big challenges when delivering essential training. Many others also cited lack of learner motivation and engagement… or a lack of managerial buy-in for effective learning approaches. Others simply said they had too much content to deliver.

Challenges to employee remembering: retention leads the way

How Knowledge Guru Helps With Remembering

Knowledge Guru customers already know how the platform can help learners remember. The spaced repetition and feedback loops embedded in the games helps with employee remembering. The engaging gameplay increases learner motivation. The result? Greater retention of job-critical knowledge.

In some ways, the results of this survey are good news for Knowledge Guru customers. You are already using a platform that is designed specifically to meet the learning challenges your peers mentioned most!

The key, of course, is to embed solutions like Knowledge Guru into a larger curriculum  that truly drives success for learners. Getting organizational buy-in for an initiative like this can be tricky, as these survey results suggest.

See the rest of the survey

To see our key takeaways from the Learning and Remembering survey, as well as some of the actual responses, read the full survey recap on the Bottom-Line Performance website.

When Remembering Really Matters: The Power of Serious Games for Learning (Free Webinar)

How confident are you that learners really remember what they learn from training delivered in your organization? Research has shown time and time again that remembering is hard and forgetting is easy. So how do you combat this all-to-common problem with training? That’s what this webinar is all about.

Sharon Boller, President and Chief Product Officer, and Steven Boller, Marketing Director, are delivering a jam-packed session through Training Magazine Network where they demonstrate research-based strategies for retention—and how they relate to games. If it’s important for your employees to be able to recall information from your training (which they should be able to do, or why spend money on training at all?), then you can’t afford to miss the information in this webinar.

The webinar will be held on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 10:00AM Pacific / 1:00PM Eastern (60-Minute Session). Click here to register now!

Can’t attend? Register anyway. We’ll send you the recording and materials after the event.

Sharon and Steve will explain how games can help form long-term memories… and business results. And since everything we do is grounded in research, they’ll provide recent research on games and case studies that demonstrate how games can be used for learning.

In this session, you will:

  • Identify the potential costs of not remembering
  • Gain an understanding of research-based learning principles such as spaced repetition, feedback loops and more
  • Identify the connection between research-based learning methods and tangible business outcomes

PLUS! Attendees will be entered to win a free “starter” package for use in your organization and – after the webinar – are invited to remain for a focused exploration of the game-creation platform, Knowledge Guru.

About the Presenters

About Sharon Boller
Sharon Boller

Sharon Boller is the president of Bottom-Line Performance (BLP). She founded BLP in 1995, and in 20 years has developed a wide array of learning solutions for corporate, government, and non-profit clients. Sharon has 25 years’ experience in learning design; she is the Chief Product Officer of the Knowledge Guru game engine, a platform for creating serious games. She has spoken at numerous conferences—including ASTD, ISPI, and SALT on the topics of learning design and game design. Sharon holds an MS degree in instructional systems technology from Indiana University, where she graduated magna cum laude.

About Steven Boller
Steve Boller

Steven Boller is the Marketing Director at Bottom-Line Performance. He is the editor of the popular Lessons on Learning and Learning Game Design blogs. Steven has written over 100 educational articles and blogs, appeared on numerous content aggregators and industry websites, and developed content for several Knowledge Guru games. He has served on the program committee for the Central Indiana Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development and has presented nationally at DevLearn, ASTD Techknowledge and ASTD International on the power of serious games for learning.

Four Strategies for Long-Term Retention in Corporate Learning (White Paper)

In some organizations, training is a “check the box,” “we’ve always done it this way” activity. That may work in some situations, but what about when remembering really matters? Corporate learning professionals need strategies to improve both knowledge transfer during the initial learning event as well as the rate of long-term retention.

Sharon Boller, Knowledge Guru creator and Chief Product Officer, has authored a new white paper on strategies you can use to help learners remember. It includes the learning and remembering strategies used in Knowledge Guru alongside other strategies we use time and again in our custom solutions.

Most importantly, you’ll find five unique business challenges in the white paper… and the strategies we used to solve those challenges for our clients.

The white paper is available as a free download in the Learning Center on our Bottom-Line Performance website. Click here or click the image below to download the white paper.


This white paper, together with our Primer on Spaced Repetition and Feedback Loops, serve as the ideal introduction to the research-based learning principles we use in our Knowledge Guru games. We incorporate these strategies for learning and remembering into all of the custom learning solutions we develop as well. By studying the white paper, you will be able to:

  • Apply research-based strategies for both learning and remembering into your own learning designs.
  • Effectively use Knowledge Guru as a tool to increase learner retention.
  • Ensure any solution you implement at your organization is backed by research-based learning principles.

Download the white paper here.

The Corporate Learning Guide to Spaced Repetition and Feedback Loops (Free Download)

There are many causes for ineffective training, but one of L&D’s greatest enemies is forgetting. If learners fail to embed new knowledge into their long-term memory, they will be unable to apply it on the job. When training is treated as a one-time event, tangible results will be limited.

You know there’s a problem. But what can you do about it?

We’ve put together a free guide highlighting the research-based approaches of spaced repetition and immediate feedback. Research has repeatedly shown that using these techniques can increase retention of new knowledge and skills. By basing your own learning designs off of these principles or using a solution that already has the learning principles built in, you can greatly increase what your learners will remember.

What’s in a name?

Spaced repetition goes by several names in the L&D world. You might have heard this technique referred to as spaced learning and repetition, interval reinforcement, distributed practice, the spacing effect, or something else entirely. We have chosen to use the term “spaced repetition” for the purpose of this guide.

Who’s this guide for?

Any business professional looking for one of the following outcomes through a corporate learning program:

  • Less accidents
  • More sales
  • Better customer service
  • Faster new hire on-boarding
  • Fewer mistakes

What’s in the guide:

  • The five corporate learning content areas (accounting for 55% of total training) that benefit the most from spaced repetition approaches.
  • Five common learning solutions that fail to help learners retain knowledge.
  • The real story behind the forgetting curve, and what the latest research has to say about Herman Ebbinghaus’ theory.
  • An introduction to spaced repetition, including “micro spacings” and “macro spacings.”
  • The difference between feedback that helps learners remember and feedback that doesn’t.
  • A case study of an organization that used a spaced repetition solution and achieved tangible business results.


4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning (Free Download)

4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning

A growing body of research supports the use of serious games in the workplace. And thanks to a year of successful implementations in corporate settings, some great case studies now point the way for organizations ready to use games for learning.

Whether you want to use a true serious game, a gamified solution, or a combination of the two… it’s a great time to do so.

While research shows that people learn more from games than other learning solutions, many L&D practicioners still do not know why games work… so they avoid using games entirely.

If you think you want to use a game for learning, you first must become familiar with the types of “fun” in games, what’s required for real learning to happen, and the ways games can link the two.

We’ve created a new guide to help you accomplish this. The content, researched and written by Knowledge Guru creator (and BLP president) Sharon Boller, takes the mystery out of using serious games in the enterprise. It’s a simple thing, really: become familiar with the ways people have fun in games, identify the common principles all effective learning solutions share, and then carefully map the two together.

And once  you map the “fun” elements of your serious game to the elements needed for learning, you’ll also want to employ some research-based learning principles to actually help people remember the content after they’ve learned it. Are your game mechanics and game elements actually mapped to the cognitive tasks learners need to perform on the job? Are you taking advantage of the latest research on how the human brain best commits knowledge to long-term memory?

The guide, titled 4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning, is available as a free download.

4 Ways Serious Games Link to Learning

Top 5 Game-Based Learning Posts on Our Blog in 2013


What a year it has been for the Knowledge Guru product! We first launched the game engine in October 2012, added the Game Creation Wizard in 2013, and are now humming along with happy customers and a wide range of feature enhancements planned for the coming year.

Besides product enhancements, a big focus of ours is educating the community on how serious games and gamification can be used for learning. We’ve published many articles on our blog, as well as on the Bottom-Line Performance blog, on the topic. Since BLP President and Knowledge Guru creator Sharon Boller is passionate about using games for learning, it comes as no surprise that some of the best posts were written by her.

These five articles were the most-visited on our Knowledge Guru website in 2013. We will be back with more great content this January.

1. Linking Games to the Learning Experience: Learning Game Design White Paper: Sharon Boller wrote nearly a dozen blog posts on the topic of learning game design in 2013, each covering a separate step of the process. She later took those posts, edited and re-worked them, and turned them into a comprehensive white paper on learning game design. Collectively, this was the “hot topic” on our blog in 2013. Read it

2. 100 Great Game-Based Learning and Gamification Resources: One of the best way to share the game-based learning love is simply connecting readers with all of the great content available on the web. We compiled a list of 100 of our favorite articles, each one offering a unique insight on using games (or game mechanics) for learning. See them

3. Game-Based Learning Infographic: There’s a reason this infographic has been shared far and wide and even made it on to Edudemic: it’s a one-stop overview for valuable game-based learning research and case studies. See it

4. 5 Great Serious Games and Gamification Blogs to Follow: This post continued on our theme of finding valuable content shared by other experts in the game-based learning space. See some of our go-to blogs in a more concise format than the large list of resources mentioned above. Read it

5. Getting Started in Learning Game Design: Need a roadmap for kicking off the learning game design process? This post has it. Sharon Boller lists the five overarching steps to learning game design, and even includes a graphic for staying on track. Read it

The Learning Design Behind Knowledge Guru Games

Interested in spaced learning and distributed practice? Then download our free Primer on Spaced Repetition and Feedback Loops. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about these concepts so you can incorporate them in your own training.

Many of our customers are first drawn to Knowledge Guru because they are looking for a serious game. They want their training to be more game-like and fun for learners. But as much as we are believers in the power of games to improve learning outcomes, the fact that Knowledge Guru is a game is not as important to the learning value as the learning principles we built into the game’s design.

Any game becomes useless for learning unless learning is carefully built into the game mechanics and game elements. In the case of Knowledge Guru, we use three research-based learning principles within the game to help players acquire knowledge. These principles are at work in every Knowledge Guru game, no matter what content you put into the tool (as long as you write your question sets correctly!).

Here’s a brief overview:



It’s intuitive, really. We need to repeatedly study material in order to remember it. In Knowledge Guru, game questions are grouped into question sets, which are groups of three questions. Each question set is linked to a learning objective in the game. Each question set teaches one piece of information, but the three questions each approach it in a different way. Question A might be fact recall, Question B a true or false question, and Question C a scenario question where learners apply the information in context. More about creating question sets here.

Another way to think of repetition is practice testing. A 2013 report by the Association for Psychological Science rated Practice Testing as a “highly effective learning tactic.” Giving learners more evaluations aids in further learning… and each path in the Knowledge Guru game is another mini “evaluation” or challenge learners must complete. Because the information is brought to mind multiple times, it is easier to remember. This is similar to the learning benefit found from using flash cards.

Spaced learning


Sometimes referred to as distributed practice, spaced learning happens when we space our learning out into small chunks over time. The same Association for Psychological Science report referenced above found that intentionally breaking learning into smaller bits and spacing the practice out builds long-term memory better than other study methods.

We use spaced learning in a “macro” and “micro” way within Knowledge Guru. The most obvious is the Guru Grab Bag mode, which contains all of the questions from the normal game mode, but is only unlocked when learners complete the regular game. By returning to the game days or weeks after completing it, the learning is reinforced.

Spaced learning can even be beneficial if the repetitions are spaced only a few minutes apart. Since the three questions in a set are placed on paths A, B, and C, learners are exposed to the same information after short breaks (if they complete the topic in one sitting).

Immediate Feedback


When learners get a question right in Knowledge Guru, three things happen:

  1. They move on to the next question.
  2. Points are awarded.
  3. Depending on where they are in the game, achievements are earned.

In this way, the game is providing feedback to players for the performance. It’s saying “Good job! You’re getting it!” When players get a question wrong, they receive immediate feedback explaining their misstep, and the following things happen:

  1. Points are deducted.
  2. The game provides an explanation of the mistake.
  3. The learner returns to the same question and must try again.

Instead of merely letting players get the answer wrong, the game immediately corrects them and helps them learn why they answered incorrectly. This is how Knowledge Guru helps people learn content, rather than simply evaluating them on how much they already know.

It’s More Than Just a Game

While gaming is central to Knowledge Guru, we see the learning principles behind the game as the most valuable element of the product. We’ve aligned our efforts so each enhancement and iteration uses the principles of spaced learning, repetition, and immediate feedback to help people acquire knowledge faster.