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What Is Learning Loss and How Can We Combat It?

January 10, 2022
What Is Learning Loss and How Can We Combat It?

COVID-19 brought into sharp focus the issue that is learning loss. Time is an investment and it ought to pay off. If we start experiencing a loss of learning, in many ways the time we spent to initially receive that education is wasted.

Today we want to discuss some of the specifics of learning loss and a few ways to help combat it. Children and adults alike can benefit by adopting strategies meant to help them retain the important knowledge they're learning over the course of their lives.

What Is Learning Loss?

To begin, let us discuss the basics of learning loss. In many ways, learning loss is what it sounds like. It is the common phenomenon of learning something only to forget it later.

We should also admit that some loss of knowledge is inevitable over the course of one's lifetime. It is impossible to remember everything you might have been taught. That said, most of us forget more than we need to.

There can be a great many things that contribute to forgetting information you've learned. Not all will be under your control. For instance, if a pandemic hits and all learning now has to be online, it isn't really a student's (or even teacher's) fault the quality of their learning takes a hit.

This said, some knowledge is important. Therefore, it is important to consider the factors under your control when trying to help either yourself or people relying on you retain what they've learned.

Why Do We Forget?

The next logical question to consider is why people forget things they have learned. While this is a complex topic and even experts do not fully understand the brain yet, we at least know enough to have a conversation.

First, it helps to understand the nature of memory. Memories exist as electrical and chemical signals in your brain. These signals trigger through an complex network of cells called neurons in your brain.

This is why brain damage can erase or history memories. These cells also deteriorate with age, which is why problems with memory and other processes linked to the brain are more common among the elderly.

We also tend to remember things we register as important or engaging more than things that feel boring or irrelevant. If something bores you, you may forget it over time.

People also tend to forget memories with disuse. This is actually a major problem with high school education; one survey suggests adults use as little as 37% of what they learn in high school once they leave, in turn forgetting much of the material over time.

Who Is Getting Hurt?

With the above in mind, it is not only those with serious medical conditions like dementia who learning loss affects. While it has always been an issue, the COVID-19 pandemic brought this issue into stark focus.

Students who suddenly found themselves in online learning environments saw a serious drop in their ability to retain what was taught. In devoting similar amounts of time to education, schools across the nation saw worse results.

Adults can be equally affected by this phenomenon; the problem is that the effects can be hidden if they do not continue their formal education. But most people, if told to consider the contents of a class they took four or more years ago, are likely to have trouble recalling even many of the basic details.

A loss of learning's effects depends on what is being lost. For students, it can have a detrimental effect as they continue their education. Many courses build on previous material, assuming the student has retained it.

For adults, the situation is more complex. That said, science, math, and historical literacy can have a real impact on your ability to make rational decisions and to understand the world. It is not good to slowly lose these things.

This is not to mention the potential harm forgetting material related to your job can have. In some cases, a loss of learning could lose your job or even result in a dangerous mistake being made.

Confronting Learning Loss

The knowledge that we "leak" what we've learned can be disheartening. The good news is that you can practice both retaining knowledge for longer as well as catching areas you've grown weak in faster.

To begin, acknowledge the problem. Do you think you may be forgetting knowledge you'd rather keep? Avoiding that fact will not make it untrue.

Then, try to consider why you may have trouble remembering it. It is likely a combination of factors. For example, stress can impact recall. Combined with a given piece of knowledge seeming boring to you or going disused, it is going to fade.

Obviously, not every fact and skill that feels mundane or boring should be forgotten. We want students to be able to do division in their heads. You certainly want to be able to do your taxes.

The problem is that it can be difficult to "convince" your brain that some information is important. Instead, you may need to adopt some strategies to help lock knowledge in better than your brain might with a traditional approach.

Start at the Beginning

Perhaps the easiest way to lock in what one has learned is to determine the style of learning one is most equipped for. It is often said students learn best in one of four ways.

Many people also find one or two other styles work for them as well, if not as good as their favored style. Others may even find one style works well in some circumstances, but that they favor another in other circumstances.

Note that formal education is not the time you benefit from understanding how you learn. Understanding how best to learn helps at work, when learning life skills, and more.

Let's review the four learning styles and you can see which works best for you.


Visual learners absorb best through sight. If something is demonstrated live or can be shown via an engaging, colorful diagram, they often have a much easier time recalling the material.

If it seems difficult converting certain material into a visual style, diagrams and flow charts can help. For example, a multi-step process can be turned into several squares with arrows showing the order they must be followed.

Interestingly, many visual learners do not benefit much from photos or videos. It is maps, graphs, diagrams, and charts that tend to help the most.


Auditory learners best learn through sound. Lectures and group discussions can be an excellent way for these kinds of learners to internalize information.

Many auditory learners do well in school. A traditional academic learning environment often conveys the bulk of information via spoken word with only simple visuals, if the teacher uses any at all.

Homework and tests may be more difficult, as these assignments often require reading and writing, rather than speaking and listening.


Kinesthetic learners learn through doing. These types of learners benefit from tactile aids and actual simulations of what is being taught, when possible.

Many chemistry and biology lessons use this method of approach but it is rarer in other academic disciplines. Certain subjects, such as English, can be difficult to translate into this learning style.

Many real-world work environments take this approach to teaching, so some kinesthetic learners may struggle to remember academic lessons but quickly internalize work skills.


The final type of learner is one who learns best through reading and writing. Many of these learners do well in school, even if their lessons may not all be in writing.

This is in part because many of the subjects students tend to find difficult, such as maths and sciences, have a heavy textbook element. This is doubly true for homework, which is mostly done via reading and writing.

These learners often have an advantage over other types of learners, as taking notes can help them remember material. Many of these readers can remember material they write down for long periods, even if they do not actually reference what they wrote later.

Use Your Brain to Your Advantage

By identifying the learning style that most benefits you, you can then take more control over what you remember. Memory is learning a piece of information that you can then recall later.

Whenever you believe you have encountered a critical piece of information, take note of it. Later, use your notes to study that fact via the learning style that most benefits you.

Even better is if you can get the person teaching you to adapt to your preferred learning style. However, we understand this is not always possible. How you study is always under your control, how someone teaches often is not.

That said, educators should be working to better identify ways to help engage more of these learning styles at once. The traditional approach, where one lectures as students take notes, is less effective than teaching strategies meant to engage the class.

Better Learning Environments and Better Retention

At Clarus, we understand certain environments foster learning and retention better than others. They can also be designed around collaboration, which is itself a known way to help reinforce learning.

That is not only bias speaking, either. It is well-established that teaching and group discussion can have a dramatic impact on the ability of all involved to recall information later.

The problem that has become clear since the pandemic is that group Zoom calls often make for quite poor learning environments. While it could be improved with adjustments to lesson structure, teachers had neither the time nor resources to devote to those changes.

In education, every advantage counts. Both online and in-person learning environments need to be designed around how people actually learn. This pandemic came as a surprise and highlighted many of the modern education system's issues in adapting to student needs.

Where We Can Help

Our glassboards foster collaboration and learning among those who use them. You can use these dividers to deliver information in a way that feels more engaging and interesting, improving retention and engaging with a number of learning styles at once.

Many organizations on the cutting edge use glass boards over traditional chalk or whiteboards and not because many find they look nicer. Glassboards combine the utility of a whiteboard with the simple elegance and durability of glass.

Students also like glassboards. The elegance of these learning tools often gives off a sense of luxury that in turn makes a learning environment feel elite and like a given organization cares about its students.

As simple as it might be, that positivity has a real impact on learning and recall. We tend to do better when it feels like an organization believes in us and has invested resources into our doing better.

There is a great deal of versatility in what our glassboards offer educators. They can help you utilize your space more efficiently, encourage collaboration, and much more.

Modern Learning Is About Adaptation

Learning loss is a real threat to education. Anything forgotten either has to be taught again or is lost for good. Modern learning should focus on adapting a lesson to work best for a given individual.

If you'd like help using our products to improve an office or learning environment, contact us. Clarus glassboards manage to be both elegant and durable, helping you to better facilitate collaboration all while beautifying a space.

In education, every advantage counts. Both online and in-person learning environments need to be designed around how people actually learn.
Perhaps the easiest way to lock in what one has learned is to determine the style of learning one is most equipped for.

In education, every advantage counts. Both online and in-person learning environments need to be designed around how people actually learn.

Perhaps the easiest way to lock in what one has learned is to determine the style of learning one is most equipped for.