Learning Curves – Improving Efficiency Through Faster Learning

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learning curve to learn faster

Before knowing about the learning curve theory let us know what is learning? so If we talk about the term learning, it is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences. The ability to learn is in possession by humans, animals & some machines. 

Any changes in our behaviour as a result of a new experience is said to be learning. Learning takes place at all ages, and one knows, when put in a unique situation, to make sense and be more comfortable.



Meanwhile, Psychologists describe the progress in learning by drawing a line on a line on graph paper. This line is in a curve form, not straight. So, it is called a learning curve. Hence, A learning curve is a graphical representation of the correlation between a learner’s performance on a particular task and the number of attempts or time required to complete the job.

In 1885 Hermann Ebbinghaus described the learning curve. Arthur Bills gave a more detailed description of learning curves in 1934. He also discussed the properties of different learning curves, such as negative acceleration and positive acceleration.

types of learning curve


Initial learning curve:-

It is slow learning because of the newness and difficulty of skill. It is also called the log phase. So, In the log phase, the teaching is merely zero for the first few practices. Once the learner has acquired some basics of his operations, he gains some confidence, leading to the second stage of increasing returns.

Steep up stage:-

It is also called the exponential phase. Also, In this stage, the learning is suddenly increased, and the rate of improvement is substantial.


When there is no progress in learning or improvement is arrested. So, It is called a plateau. However, this may be a false plateau, and the learner may be developing new ideas in improving efficiency.

Peak proficiency:-

The development of new ideas may further improve upon his skill until he reaches the peak of inefficiency.

Over learning:-

When skills become a kind of habit, this stage is termed as over learning here because here, the learning becomes automatic and unforgettable.

Types Of Learning Curves

Diminishing Return Learning Curve:-

So, This is just the opposite of an exponential rise in this. The progression rate is slow at the beginning and then rises over time until full proficiency is obtained. This curve describes a situation where perhaps a complex task is being learned, and the rate of learning is initially slow.

Increasing-Return Learning Curve:-

The increase in skill or retention of information may increase rapidly to its maximum rate during the beginning attempts and then decreases over the period.

Also, This describes a situation where the task may be easy to learn, and the initial progression of learning is fast and rapid.

S-Curve or Sigmoid Function:-

It measures an individual who is new to a task. So, It is the idealized general form of all learning curves; initially, this curve shows slow learning. Also, The learner works to improve the skills required or, say, first accumulate small steps, followed by the more significant stages. 

Meanwhile, The latter half of the curve indicates that the learner now takes less time to complete the task as he becomes proficient in the skills required. Often the end of the turn begins to level off, indicating a plateau stage or new challenges.

Increasing -Decreasing-Return Learning Curve:-

So, This graph contains all stages of learning curves. So, we will say that this is a complex graph that includes all stages of learning.


  • We can define these curves as challenging to learn, and that takes more time and effort so that a steep increase would mean a quick increment of skill. However, the term is mainly used in everyday English with the meaning of a complex initial learning process.
  • If two products have similar functionality, more enormous, then probably the one with a “steep” curve is better because it can be learned quickly.
  • If two products have different functionality, then probably one with a short curve and have limited functionality may not be as good as one with a long arc and has greater functionality. 
  • Short and long learning curves
  • Product A has less functionality and a short learning curve. Product B has more extensive functionality, but it takes longer to learn.

Learning curves theory

  • It is concerned with the idea that when a new job, process, or activity performs for the first time, likely, the workforce involved will not achieve maximum efficiency immediately. The learning curve theory states that completing a task should take less time and effort; the more the job is done over time.
  • Repetition of the task is likely to make people more confident and knowledgeable, and it will eventually result in more efficient and rapid operations. Ultimately, the learning process will stop after continually repeating a particular job.
  • Due to this, completing a task will initially decline and then increase once efficient working is good. The cumulative average time per unit is assumed to decrease by a constant percentage every time outputs double.

Transfer of Learning

Transfer of learning is the ability to learn in one context and applying it to another.

Positive Transfer:-

It helps you apply skills or knowledge to a new topic, whereas negative transfer hurts you.

Zero Transfer:-

It means that old skills and knowledge do not affect learning new skills or experience.

Negative Transfer:-

It refers to the interference of previous knowledge with new learning.

Bilateral Transfer:-

A skill within a particular task by practice can often be took over to the other hand. This whole process is called a bilateral transfer.

Lateral Transfer:-

The lateral transfer involves a learning achievement at the same level but in a different context.

Horizontal Transfer:-

The horizontal transfer generally refers to learning in one situation on learning in a different case.

Vertical Transfer:-

The vertical transfer requires that learning at a lower level must be transferring to an upgrade of cognitive skills.

Production rate according to phases in learning

First Phase:- 

There will be a gradual increase in the production rate until the maximum expectation is reachable.

Second Phase:- 

The learning rate will gradually deteriorate because of the limitations of the equipment.

Third phase:-

The production rate begins to decrease due to a reduction in customer requirements and an increase in cost.

Consequences areas of the industry when you apply learning curves

image of a labour
  •  A standard costing system would need to be set standard labour times after the learning curve has been reached the plateau 
  •  A budgetary control system incorporating labour variances will have to make an allowance.
  •  Identification of the learning curve will help the company better plan marketing, work scheduling, recruitment, and material acquisition activities.
  •  As employees gain more experience, then they are more trying to reduce material wastage.

Application of Learning Curves

  • Direct Labour:- Direct labour is the general application area of a learning curve since only people can learn. The learning curve is mainly applicable to new activities and labour force, whether employed on new or old activities.
  • Material:- Materials respond to learning only in an indirect way under specific circumstances. The learning curve applies mainly to sub contract or fabrication orders placed outside or components purchased from suppliers. The details you bought features will be deciding through labour and supplier.
  • Spoilage And Defective Work:- This also an area of learning because, with the acquisition of more skill and efficiency, losses on account of spoilage and defective production will decline.

Features of Learning Curves

  • The learning curve does not cost reduction techniques; it is a naturally occurring human phenomenon.
  • It is a human characteristic that a person engaged in a repetitive task will improve his performance over time.
  • In the initial stage of production, generally, the workers do not have the confidence of completing the job successfully; when they produce few units, they gain confidence; people learn from errors.
  • When workers produce more and more units, they come to know the problems and their reasons. Now they can avoid the issues.
  • The workers can find a new method of doing the job; they can complete the task less.
  • Better equipment and tools to develop.
  • Better product design leads to increased efficiency.

Factors Affecting Learning Curves

  • While pricing for bids tends, only people can learn to set up a very high initial labour cost to show a high learning curve, making the learning curves useless and sometimes misleading.
  • When labour turnover is high, management has to train new workers frequently in such a situation, and the company may never reach its maximum efficiency potential.
  • Changes in the production or the methods in the production designs, machinery, and the tools used to affect the slope of learning curves.
  • Labour strikes, lockout, and shutdowns also affect the learning curve.

Pros and cons of learning curve theory


  • The learning curve concept suggests the basis of correct staffing in continuously expanding production.
  • It provides a means of evaluating the effectiveness of the training program.
  • And It is frequently used in conjunction with establishing a bid price for contracts.
  • It helps in finding out working capital.
  • Knowledge of the learning curve assists in planning the inventories at material work in progress and finished goods.
  • The learning rate is also considered consistent enough to establish trends using the learning curve.
  • Useful in exercising control.
  • It will be helpful to make or buy decisions.


  • It is only helpful for new operations where machines do not contribute a significant part to production. It does not apply to all products.
  • Changes other than learning may affect the learning curve.
  • A learning curve that may not show expected results would need further analysis to determine the underlying variables impacting its shape, as the angle does not change everything.
  • The learning curve assumes that production will continue without any significant interruption. But if the work is under interruption, the angle may be defected or accept a new slope.
  • The characteristics of 80% of the learning curve initially getting in the USA’s air force industry are usually taken as the percentage is applying to all sectors. Studies show that there cannot be a unique percentage that can be universally used.


The learning curve plays a significant role in the management and running of projects.

This theory is primarily used in repeating tasks and long-term projects to improve the work’s performance.

Many organisations prefer to use the learning curve, which is cheaper and easy to use and provide better performance and expertise. It will be seen that the learning curve affects both short and long term projects. 

Also, you can read our blog on VAK Learning Styles – Discover Your Learning Style


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