The Power of the Repeat

(Microsoft, 2014)

How many times have you asked someone to repeat something? My lifetime total is in the millions.

I had a project where we were developing an asynchronous (i.e., on demand) E-learning course. We had some subject matter experts that joined the project late into the development. They objected to some repetition we had built into the course. Cognitively, judicious repetition in learning is a good thing. Here are some starter ideas for building repetition into your learning solutions:


In synchronous events, this could be in the form of thought provoking questions to start the cognitive ball rolling. In asynchronous events, this could be in the form of quizzes to test for understanding. Per Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, & Willingham (2013) “testing… improves learning” (p. 29). Performance improvements ranged from 14% to 44% when using a practice test (Dunlosky et al., 2013). Anyone who has benefited from using flash cards or taking an online practice test before the real thing should already be a believer.


This is repetition where it does the most good, over time rather than during a one time learning event (Dunlosky et al., 2013). “The term distributed-practice effect refers to the finding that distributing learning over time (either within a single study session or across sessions) typically benefits long-term retention more than does massing learning opportunities back-to-back or in relatively close succession” (Dunlosky et al., p. 35). When you are back at your desk, trying to actually apply your learning to your job, post training job aids help the learners reuse & retain this information thus acting as another repetition of course material.

What other ways can you think of to build repetition into the design of your next learning solution?


Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4–58. doi:10.1177/1529100612453266

Microsoft. (2014). Stars rainbows on blue pattern [Digital Image]. Used with permission from Microsoft. Retrieved from|

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