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Three Ways to Increase Knowledge Retention for Medical Affairs Training

Medical Affairs teams need to train regularly to remain up-to-date on all existing and emerging information in their therapeutic areas.

In the past, these training programs were typically intensive, live multi-day efforts that combined data-packed presentations with interactive workshops. As the pandemic necessitated a shift to virtual classes, training activities were forced to adapt.

Over the past three years, the emergence of virtual training programs has opened up unique opportunities. However, training via a screen has its challenges, for both the trainers and the Medical Science Liaison (MSL) learners.

As the digital era ushers in entirely new training formats, it’s vital to maximize learner engagement. In person, a training leader can make eye contact, ask questions and engage participants in the moment. You need to ensure your virtual training provides an equally engaging and enriching experience for your MSLs.

Why Learner Engagement is Vital

Simply put, engagement equals more knowledge retention. The more knowledge your MSLs retain from each training, the better equipped they are to do their jobs.

Training has two main purposes: to gain skills and increase knowledge. Through increased skill and knowledge, MSLs build confidence. Confidence then empowers MSLs to have better conversations with HCPs, and ultimately, achieve better outcomes.

Live training has interactivity and engagement built in. Q&As, discussions and small-group exercises are easily achievable when everyone is in the same room. However, virtual training is self-guided, and thus relies on more creative approaches to achieve the same hands-on learning experience.

According to Dale’s cone of experience, content that is seen only has a 10% retention rate, compared to a 90% retention rate for information that is experienced.

It’s all too easy to just click through training in virtual environments, seeing information without experiencing anything.

Since engagement ensures trainees review, digest and internalize your content, take these proactive steps to maximize engagement in your next virtual training session.

Three Key Ways to Maximize Engagement

The same tools that worked well in live training don’t always translate well to a virtual, self-paced course. When learners are in charge of completing training at their own pace, it’s vital to keep them engaged so they complete the courses and achieve the intended outcomes.

However, there’s a massive opportunity here to achieve better learning outcomes. Self-paced training is customizable to each learner’s specific preferences and abilities.

For instance, a non-linear navigation means MSLs can navigate through a course in a way that makes sense for their learning style. This means they can link concepts as they have questions or curiosity about a specific topic. For example, if an MSL is learning about a new therapy and encounters unfamiliar terminology, they can use the non-linear navigation to immediately access the relevant content to clarify their understanding before continuing on with the main material.

Rather than clicking through dozens of slides to answer a question, a more natural navigation allows learners to create their own personalized path through a network of information. This flexibility enhances their learning experience.

Self-guided training offers the ability to increase retention because you’re implementing tools that better serve your learners. Training isn’t just about data — it’s the culmination of tools, formats, feedback loops and data that create a meaningful experience for MSLs.

These three tools will ensure your training isn’t just informational but genuinely educational:

Visual Cues

Data visualizations, graphic interfacing and other visual cues add additional layers to written data. A visual component accelerates understanding by providing a deeper view of the same information.

For example, a presentation may include a section about how a specific rare disease presents in a specific population. Reading about the symptoms is the first step. Next, seeing the key points summarized neatly and presented in a visual way — maybe in a graph overlaid on a human outline — builds more connections. Consider how visuals can create concrete connections for learners. A training module on Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rare genetic disorder affecting muscle function, could benefit from a visual representation illustrating the typical progression of the disease on a human silhouette. This graphic would highlight the affected body areas, such as calf muscles in the early stages and upper body muscles as the disease progresses, helping learners understand the physical manifestations of the disease.

The first step to a successful, engaging program is providing visual avenues to not just see, but link and digest data.


Building on visual cues, interactivity adds interest, excitement and more opportunities for explanation throughout your training.

Facilitated storytelling (FaST) decks are one excellent example. FaST decks include clickable, interactive modules that provide deeper information, allowing users to control their pace of work and navigate according to their own learning needs. This is particularly helpful when some concepts are easy to understand but others require more reinforcement, either through additional explanation or exercises.

Here’s how it can look in action: An interactive graphic of a human silhouette alongside a timeline highlighting the different stages of DMD progression could be incorporated into your FaST deck. As the user moves along the timeline, the corresponding affected body areas on the silhouette would be highlighted or color-coded to indicate the extent of muscle deterioration. This interactive element provides a more engaging learning experience, allowing MSLs to explore the disease progression and its impact on the patient’s body at their own pace.

In addition, you can incorporate quizzes, gamification, scoring and leaderboards, videos, digital role-playing and clickable scenarios that lead learners through the patient journey rather than just relying on a text-based, linear presentation to convey the same information.

Adding interactivity provides an immersive, multisensory experience that minimizes audience dropout rates and bolsters content retention.

Additionally, the full scope of interactivity provides MSLs with an experience that mirrors their conversations with HCPs. In a deck with non-linear navigation, MSLs learn according to their own pace. When working directly with an HCP, they can also navigate directly to the points the HCP wants to discuss without following a strict, prescribed outline.

When learning mirrors the live experience, confidence increases. It’s like a dress rehearsal — you may know all your lines when you are sitting at a table with your castmates, focused only on your script. But when you add costumes, a new environment and the full scope of expression expected from an actor, it might be harder to remember your cues. Being able to “rehearse” more thoroughly prepares an MSL for their work with HCPs.

Measurement and Feedback

Including these elements is an excellent way to increase engagement, but you need to have visibility into the effectiveness of each method to then understand how your training program as a whole affects learners.

Measuring the overall impact of training is difficult, because that requires gathering external data from HCPs, which isn’t always possible. But it is possible to understand how visual and interactive elements affect MSLs.

By tracking user engagement metrics, such as the time spent on specific pages and the number of clicks on interactive elements, you can assess the effectiveness of your visual and interactive components. Additionally, pre- and post-training assessments can help measure the improvement in MSLs’ understanding of the content, providing valuable insights into the impact of your training program on their knowledge retention and performance in the field.

Consider what information you need from your learners, and design a metric strategy to gather it. This will help you strengthen future programs, and better meet learner’s needs.

Engaged Learners Achieve Better Outcomes

Self-guided training is effective at providing information in bite-sized, multimodal formats with games and exercises that reinforce key takeaways. This makes training more interesting and engaging to the learner.

Captivating your audience is key — an engaged audience remembers more information. Though linear decks and conventional PowerPoint presentations are the norm, they don’t provide the best outcomes.

Ensure your next training program delivers not just data, but true knowledge retention and increased skill by incorporating interactivity and engagement.