How Does the Learning Get Sticky? From a Track to a Highway

There is no doubt that eLearning has many benefits and that the design of eLearning programmes is improving their effectiveness so that in they are now in many cases more than simply a clicking exercise. But does that make the learning sticky?

It is said that with any input of learning, without recycling the new information - as much as 90% will be lost (Wall Street Journal)

So, there has been some initial input in some form or another, possibly eLearning. But in the brain, the skill or the knowledge is mostly still an overgrown pathway; difficult to access and quite easily lost. Unless the learning undergoes some additional process, it will more than likely be lost in the same way a small pathway in a forest becomes overgrown and lost.

There are several ways to ensure that learning is transferred and applied - changing the small pathway to an easily accessible road or a highway.

  1. The learner must recognise a purpose and a need for acquiring the information/skill

  2. The new learning must be supported and recognised outside of the learning environment/classroom

  3. Shifting learning from short to long-term memory requires repetition. However, the way the learning is repeated is important.

  4. The more modes of learning used to engage the learner, the deeper the learning. In addition, because the brain craves novelty, the repetition must be presented differently from the initial input.

  5. Multisensory input strengthens the neural connections holding the information, making retrieval easier

  6. Access to immediate feedback also strengthens the neural synapse

Multisensory learning means better remembering - John Medina brain rules: AGES


The need to multitask is a key factor in forgetting, because the hippocampus, which is vital to the storage of long term memories and also the location of objects or people, is distracted and not sufficiently engaged.

For learning to occur, the hippocampus must fire and to make the hippocampus fire, two essential ingredients are required in just the right proportion

  1. Dopamine- this neurochemical is key. To ensure the release of dopamine the following must be present: Novelty, excitement, reward, relevance

  2. Norepineprine = this neurochemical plays an important part in feelings of arousal, focus and alertness. Its release is stimulated by challenge.

The secret is to provide a balance of novelty, challenge and rewards


Memories are vast webs of information across the brain and are linked together by associations. The more associations we have related to a memory, the stronger the link and the more likely that the memory will be found when needed.

Taking information, personalising it by creating a meaningful context and linking it to existing knowledge, generates a rich set of associations.

Questioning and immediate feedback also strengthen the connections, increasing accuracy of retrieval


Emotions are a strong regulator of learning because they grab attention and also stimulate the amygdala, which sits in front of the hippocampus,telling it to start firing.

Negative emotions also generate strong memories, but these don't have a positive influence on learning

Learning must be a enjoyable event - something involving positive anticipation.


When learning is distributed over time it builds stronger memory

There is evidence that initial testing of newly learned items, with

a small delay after the learning event, will further drive the

building of long-term memory as this causes an additional

retrieval effort (Karpicke & Roediger, 2007).

Allows digestion over time with building and wiring of connections.

Study showed that repeated testing is superior to repeated studying in the formation of maximum long-term memory formation

(Roediger & Karpicke, 2006).

Spaced repetition using a variety of techniques over time leads to stronger, easier recall

Gather the brains around a table (or tables). Set up the FaceBoard game with the JAMBED covering your required knowledge and skills.