First, the technical…
Standard security awareness training doesn’t seem to have the retention rate we are all looking for. When information isn’t retained, poor behaviour follows.
It is common knowledge that the information retention rate is inversely proportional to the elapsed time since training, as explained in the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve. The forgetting curve is a mathematical formula that describes the rate at which something is forgotten after it is initially learned. The idea is over 100 years old. It originates in the late 19th century, with German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, who was among the first scientists to perform experiments to understand how memory works.
This phenomenon of learning and promptly forgetting information will be familiar to anyone who has tried to cram the night before an exam. The forgetting curve is initially very steep. On a chart, the amount of knowledge retained drops almost straight down. Ebbinghaus also found, though, that memory eventually levelled off. So the next day, he might remember just a few items from the list—but he would remember those for many days afterwards. If you want someone to remember a topic, the best way is by getting them to do it, rather than watch it.
Ebbinghaus made a second discovery: The downward slope of the forgetting curve can be softened by repeating the learned information at particular intervals.
There are many factors affecting retention which can be explained a little easier by this equation:
R = e^(-t/s)
R – retention is how easily information can be recalled
T – time passed since the learning has occurred
S – strength of memory
E – Euler’s number
Retention depends on:
- The memory’s strength– stronger memories are easier for individuals to recall after longer periods of time compared to weaker memories. Individuals differ in their memories’ strengths.
- How much time has passed since learning– people tend to forget 90% of what they have learned within a few weeks.
Rate of forgetting
The speed of forgetting information can be affected by numerous factors:
- Complexity of the material – the more complicated information is, the quicker it will be forgotten
- How the material is taught – for example, using visual aids, audio, essays, slideshows, etc
- How meaningful the information is – this is the extent you can link your learning to previously known concepts. The more relatable the information is, the slower the rate of forgetting
- Physiological factors – such as, lack of sleep or hunger
- Psychological factors – for example, stress or anxiety
Overcoming the forgetting curve is about more than raw repetitions. There has to be space between the reviews. It doesn’t work to just study a new fact 15 times in 1 hour and overcome the curve. If the fact is already at the front of the mind, no work is being done in recalling it again. But if information is repeated at intervals, the brain has to reconstruct that memory, strengthening it like a muscle.
There are other, more efficient methods to improve retention.
Focusing on the Learning Pyramid above, we can achieve better results using the second last level, “practice by doing” to improve the retention rates significantly.
A fully automated team building learning experience that is taken to the customer’s premises, set up in a board room environment to enable teams of people to work together in various themed rooms to address cybersecurity challenges.
It’s a series of cyber challenges set to be tackled by teams.
The teams have 30 minutes to finish the challenge. The teams then spend another 20 minutes going over the lessons learnt during the escape room.