Ebbinghaus Memory Experiment
The experiment by German Physiologist Ebbinghaus on the forgetting curve, a term he used to define the information that fades away over time, contains the answer to how learners forget what they learn.
To conduct the experiment, Ebbinghaus used himself as the test subject and memorized some absurd syllables (“wid, zof”), and tested himself over a couple of days to check how many of those syllables he remembered.
As you can see in the graph, he discovered that, you remember 100% of what you learn when you just finish reading or learning something.
Within a few minutes, you tend to remember only 50% percent of the information.
Over a period of 31 days, you forget most of the information and tend to remember only 21% of the information you learned initially.
So, as per the graph above, whatever you learn on Monday, will soon be forgotten by the time the weekend starts. But what if you revisit and practice the information on a daily basis?
Ebbinghaus faced the same question and he discovered that if we start revisiting the information; recapping for an hour, again the next day and the next day and within a week, it will help us retrieve the information from our long-term memory. Henceforth, the more we review the material, the flatter the forgetting curve gets.
Before we talk about how VR can be helpful in retaining information, let’s first highlight various factors that can affect the speed of forgetting information.
The complexity of the subject: If the subject is too complex, then it will be forgotten soon.
How the subject is taught: Learning a subject using visuals and audio versus learning a subject through a textbook would certainly make a big difference in the retention of the information.
Meaningful Information: The more relatable the information, the flatter the forgetting curve gets.
So, how can Virtual Reality aid learners in learning?
A new study from the University of Maryland found that people recall information better if presented to them in the virtual environment as compared to the traditional desktop setting.
In fact, many research studies have shown that when students learn something in VR, it stays with them for a much longer time as compared to learning from videoconferencing tools or blackboard.
Let’s try to understand why Virtual Reality is a powerful medium and how it can help in learning new information.
VR is immersive
One of the main advantages of Virtual Reality is that it isolates learners from the distractions of the real world. Resulting in a student’s complete attention going to the content in front of the learners who are fully absorbed in learning. When students are deeply engaged, they can understand the concepts more easily.
VR enables a sense of presence and creates room for exploration for learners. How well a learner is immersed depends on the content and the hardware. For example, Virtual Reality headsets combined with VR gloves for haptic feedback or a VR treadmill for realistic movements would be more immersive than just wearing a VR headset. Similarly, simulations closer to reality evoke multiple senses and enhance the experience.
According to the 70-20-10 model for learning and development developed by McCall, Lombardo, and Eichinger (1996), 70% is experiential learning in which a learner works in a challenging environment, assesses one’s skills, and develops new skills. 20% comes from social learning, which consists of mentorship and guidance and finally, 10% comes from structured courses and materials.
VR falls under the 70% category as it allows learners to fine-tune their skills and train in a life like environment. One can interact, manipulate, dismantle and arrange the virtual objects inside the VR environment. Unlike video or textbook learning, a learner is fully immersed and is learning by doing.
VR provides a practice loop
VR allows students to safely practice the training scenarios from the comfort of their homes or in classrooms. Students can repeat the learning process as many times as they want until they learn the concept fully. This way, students remember what they are learning through regular practice in a virtual environment rather than just memorizing the concepts.
Practicing concepts in such an interactive, engaging, and immersive way not only enhances one’s skills but also helps in strengthening memory. Moreover, through regular practice, students are able to apply the learning in real-life scenarios without any fear and hesitation.
If you are an educator or a professor who is looking to conduct research studies at a college or research institutions or simply wants to consult on applying for a VR grant, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org