The U.S. Navy measured both the increase in skills learned experientially at NAS Fallon, the U.S. Navy’s “Strike University,” and then the decay rate of skills from the moment the pilots left. The results are plotted on this chart. They found that just six weeks after the pilots left the training program, their skills had decayed to almost the same level as pre-training.
It is true that learning through “theory + doing + debriefing” changes behavior. It works. It increases capacity. And it also true that learning, if not used, goes away.
The implication to me is that education programs now and in the future have to increasingly be both experiential and flexible to deploy. It is no longer enough to simply have a great sim, for example. The sim itself has to be engaged by the student within weeks of the planned use of the content. This creates a bias towards single player and against multi-player in some situations (where it may be hard to gather critical mass), and a bias towards accessible and off-the-shelf rather than dedicated hardware.
Finally, it makes the case that education has to be refreshed in individuals. For important skills that are not frequently used, programs have to be deployed periodically to keep skills sharp.