December 8, 2023

Why is repetition and reinforcement important?

Repetition and reinforcement are essential in eLearning because they help learners remember information, reinforce concepts, and apply knowledge in real-world situations. When students are exposed to new concepts, they may initially retain the information for a short period of time, but without reinforcement, they may forget it over time. Repetition and reinforcement ensures that students can recall information and apply it even after the initial learning experience.

Research studies have shown that repetition and reinforcement are effective ways to improve learning outcomes. In a study conducted by the National Training Laboratories Institute, it was found that students retained only 5% of the information presented in a lecture, while they retained 90% of the information that was taught through practice and application. This study highlights the importance of reinforcing knowledge through practice and application to improve learning outcomes.

What is the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve?

The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve is a concept that describes how students forget information over time. The curve suggests that students forget up to 50% of new information within the first hour of learning and up to 70% within the first 24 hours. The curve emphasizes the need for repetition and reinforcement to ensure that students can retain knowledge after initial learning.

How to implement repetition and reinforcement in eLearning

Here are some examples of how to implement repetition and reinforcement in eLearning:

1. Include spaced repetitions

Spatial repetition involves exposing learners to information at specific intervals, allowing them to retain knowledge over the long term. For example, a medical terminology course might introduce new concepts in the first module, reinforce them in the second module, and test students’ knowledge of them in the third module.

2. Use scenarios and simulations

Scenarios and simulations allow students to apply knowledge in real-world scenarios, reinforcing concepts and increasing retention. For example, a customer service course could include scenarios where students practice handling challenging situations and strengthen their customer service skills.

3. Provide feedback and correction

Feedback and remediation allow students to identify areas where they need improvement, strengthening knowledge and better retention. For example, a data analytics course could provide feedback on student performance on quizzes and offer remediation and links back to content areas within the course to refresh and reinforce learning.

4. Use Microlearning

Microlearning involves breaking down information and learning into smaller, highly focused and digestible chunks, allowing students to retain knowledge over the long term. For example, we recently built a series of microlearning courses for a client who needed sales and merchandising teams to learn how to better and quickly use their order system technology. The courses included a section on what it was all about, how the process and application worked together, and why it was important and critical to their work and their company. The microlearning modules focused on specific concepts, processes and application functions; reinforcing knowledge quizzes with confidence checks have been built in to help improve retention. We also use a new framework we developed that follows a Fibonacci sequence, with each review and exercise day occurring after a number of days equal to the sum of the previous two days. This allows for a spaced-repetition approach that has been shown to be effective in promoting long-term memory retention.

Why Include Confidence Check Questions in eLearning?

The use of confidence-checking questions can be an essential aspect of eLearning that allows learners to assess their knowledge and confidence in the subject matter. Self-confidence questions can help students identify gaps in knowledge, correct misconceptions, and reinforce key concepts, ultimately improving learning outcomes.

We know that when confidence check questions are included in eLearning, it not only helps students assess their knowledge and confidence in a subject, but also identifies areas for improvement and reinforces key concepts. Self-confidence review questions can also help students build self-awareness and self-regulation, thereby improving their academic performance. A University of California (UC) San Francisco research study has shown that using confidence-checking questions can improve learning outcomes. The study found that using confidence-checking questions in an eLearning module improved student engagement and retention.


The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve emphasizes the need for repetition and reinforcement to improve retention and learning outcomes. By incorporating spaced repetition, scenarios and simulations, feedback, quizzes and remediation, microlearning and confidence checks, students can consolidate knowledge and actually learn to apply skills in real-world scenarios over time.


  • Ebbinghaus, H. 1885. Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. New York: Dover Publications.
  • University of California, San Francisco. (n.d.). “Educational Strategies: Confidence Checks.”

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