Developing effective online distance learning programmes that stick

by | Feb 27, 2019 | Case Studies, Featured, General, Resources

With the pace of the work constantly increasing and the number of distractions facing learners on the rise, global organisations are struggling to make their online distance learning programmes memorable. The Ebbinghaus ´forgetting curve´ poses a well-known issue to corporate training, with learners only remembering 40% of the information L&D practitioners present after the first few days.[1]  With an annual investment of 60 billion dollars into training programmes, forgetting directly impacts the bottom line of any organisation investing in training their staff, which means forgetting isn’t just a learning problem but a business one too.[2]  If L&D professionals are to help the organisation grow and increase profit, they need to find a way to develop effective and engaging learning interventions that stick in the minds of participants and cause lasting behaviour change.  The gold winner of this year’s Learning Technologies 2018 best online distance learning programme did just that.

The business problem at hand is one shared by many multinational organisations with staff spread around the globe. When you need to help teams to work together more efficiently you need to be able to empower conversations across borders and language barriers. With the attention/concentration spans of workers becoming increasingly shorter, Speexx, the winner of this year’s award, designed Smart Learning, a new approach for building language and communication skills.

By using data science and artificial intelligence to provide a customised adaptive learning experience for the individual, their platform not only met needs but anticipated them. It combined assessments, learning and continuous performance support in a unique and engaging manor to make learning a memorable experience.

The training paths available for the learner used a combination of different methods and media including:

  • Self-Study
  • Communication Training
  • Trainer Feedback
  • Video Exercises
  • Social Collaboration

Nothing new so far!  The trick that Smart Learning employed was to use regular spaced repetition and microlearning to beat the forgetting curve. Spaced repetition is particularly useful when learning vocabulary as it actively prompts the learner to review the repository of words previously learned. The prompt in this case is based on a rehearsal schedule that expands over time. By incorporating this feature into the programme, it enables the learning manager to identify and provide the right language training at scale.

Noticeably, this programme creates an engaging experience as it integrates AI, mobile accessibility, microlearning with the spaced repetition techniques, to provide user-centric learning solutions. Artificial Intelligence Technology adapts the personal learning path using job-specific, industry-specific or even customized content which makes it relevant to each individual learner in the context of their job.

It is also important to create a structure and framework for individuals building and practicing complicated language skills. The Speexx Learning course levels and Language Assessment Centre are based on the official Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The CEFR is the most widely used and recognized language proficiency scale in the world. Using this framework allows the platform to provide a structured approach in language learning. Whilst at the same time, the Smart Learning mechanism looks at the individual needs assessment and supplements the learner with additional materials, and contents; tweaking the schedule of the offered learning contents based on the learning pace, either prompting or simply supporting those learners who actively reach out for more.

Importantly, this programme contains 4 pillars that help to ensure it is engaging and memorable:

Smart Learning
Targeted learning bites with a mix of self-study exercises, trainer-led activities and live sessions.

Smart Content
Smart Learning is based on personal interests and needs and suggests the content to improve personal communication skills.

Counteract the Forgetting Curve
Beat the curve with fresh self-study exercises every day, writing exercises, personal mark-ups, and live communication sessions every day.

Smart Algorithm
The platform uses artificial intelligence for reliable content to learner matching at every language level and helps learners prioritize the right content and learning strategy.

The result is a measurable improvement in learning retention, improvement in ROI on learning programs and an increase in productivity that occurred because of empowering employee communication skills across borders. The core advantages of the innovative use of blended learning, AI and human interaction are clear as a result of creating more memorable experience. Organisations:

1. Get better ROI on learning, which makes a case for the learning manager and impacts the business

2. Improve user engagement, which increases learning retention, improves completion rates and counters the effects of the forgetting curve

3. Improves corporate communication, by enabling individuals and teams be better communicators, across borders and teams

Whilst the Smart Learning platform was designed to support global communications and team work, any online distance learning programme with ambitions for creating lasting behaviour change would do well not to forget some of the lessons this gold winner has to share.


1. To increase the chances of your content being memorable, it needs to be engaging and relevant to the individual. Ensure there is a diverse range of activities and training pathways to meet the needs across a variety of contexts!

2. Get to know AI and ask your suppliers about it! Even the simplest applications provide a great way of adapting content to individual needs and personalise learning

3. Use spaced learning – regular repetition of condensed learning – it is scientifically proven to be more likely to make learning content stick!

This case study was authored by Molly Blackwell, Research analyst at Towards Maturity who are the Learning Technologies Awards Benchmark Partner

[1] Psychestudy (2018). Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve [Online]. Available at:


[2] Learning Solutions (2018). Brain Science: Overcoming the forgetting curve [Online]. Available at:


This case study was first published in Learning Technologies Awards 2019 e-magazine.



About Speexx

Speexx helps large global organizations drive digital transformation, improve training results and empower employee communication skills across borders. Unlike traditional training providers, the Speexx language platform combines assessment, learning and continuous performance support. Speexx also personalises learning to fit the individual needs of each user and maintains user motivation to learn, thanks to engaging micro- and macro-learning activities.

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