The forgetting curve

Micro-learning improves employee training

Do you ever leave a multi-day conference all pumped up, your head spinning with exciting new ideas – only to forget nearly all of them a few weeks later?

It’s not your fault, maintains Carol Leaman (MAcc ‘89), president and CEO of Axonify Inc., a Waterloo-based eLearning technology company that was named one of Deloitte's 2018 Fast 50 winners. Our brains simply aren’t meant to retain so much information at once.

“The brain is really only good at kicking in and remembering four or five new pieces at a time," Leaman says. “Literally within 10 minutes, it’s on overload and none of that additional information sticks.”

Employees play training games every day

Watch gamification meet brain science and adaptive learning

Since 2011, Axonify has been helping companies such as Walmart, Bloomingdale’s and Merck use scientifically backed micro-learning to address what’s called the “forgetting curve” in their employees. Using bite-sized, personalized training through its web-based platform, employees take three- to five-minute training bursts at their desks or even while on the road using their phones.

Rather than suffering through an afternoon of learning the latest safety procedures, regulations or marketing strategies, employees play bite-sized training games for a few minutes each day, racking up points and even winning prizes. Much of the material gets repeated so it sticks.

“It’s kind of the antithesis of what traditional learning is,” says Leaman.

Micro-learning aligns with shrinking attention spans

Micro-learning’s popularity is a product of its time, perfectly aligned with our shrinking attention spans. Every message ding and social media ping draws attention away from tasks that require focus.

“People today are wildly distracted at work,” says Leaman. “So, if you’re an organization that expects to attract and properly skill people today, you need to approach training them very differently.”

A serial entrepreneur who led companies PostRank, RSS Solutions and Fakespace before buying Axonify and relaunching it in 2012, Leaman, who graduated in 1989 with an accounting degree, is still deeply connected to her alma mater. The growing company hires Waterloo co-op students each year and many full-time workers are graduates. Although she calls her own time at Waterloo “super positive,” Leaman is the first to admit she didn’t fully appreciate how much her accounting degree would play a role in her success later.

“It’s just been so pivotal,” she says. “It’s actually the best education you can get if you’re going to be a corporate CEO.”

Want to know more?

Visit Axonify's seven steps to get started with micro-learning