The average human attention span has shrunk so much that it is currently less than that of a goldfish — at least that’s the bold claim from Microsoft in its latest research. And while such a sensational statement is great for grabbing headlines, we probably shouldn’t be too worried about what this shortening means for the fate of humanity.
That being said, this decreasing ability to stay focused has been well documented and definitely raises concerns when it comes to compliance education efforts.
In a 2014 survey of learning professionals, 94 percent of respondents claimed that e-learners preferred short-form modules — courses lasting 10 minutes or less — for soft skills training. And 65 percent stated that the typical eLearning module presented too much information at one time, often overwhelming the learner.
Not sure which subjects you should cover with your eLearning program? Read: 5 Compliance Trainings You Need for Onboarding Employees
Recognizing these issues, compliance training firms and corporations have begun to embrace more manageable course structures, such as employing microlearning — short education sessions that only last a couple of minutes and are focused to meet a narrow but specific learning outcome.
Beyond simply keeping learners happy, transitioning to these shorter learning programs can also offer a number of benefits.
What Are the Advantages of Shorter Training Sessions?
Maintaining focus is a challenge for any educational program. And while there are a number of techniques — such as gameification and storytelling — that you can use to keep the learner engaged, few strategies meet with the same level of success as a short lesson time.
A meta-analysis conducted by Abreena Tompkins found that most people could not maintain “intense” focus for more than 15 to 20 minutes without requiring a break. More specifically, she states: “Physiologically, your neurons are keen and alert for no more than 20 consecutive minutes. At the end of those 20 minutes, your neurons have gone from full-fledged alert to total collapse, and it takes two to three minutes for those neurons to be completely recovered and back to the total alert state.”
With a shorter course structure, you can convey important details to your staff without running the risk that they are no longer able to focus while critical information is being provided to them.
According to Information Process Theory, which was pioneered by George A. Miller, people are more likely to retain information when it is given to them in manageable “chunks” rather than in a steady, continuous stream. The learner can then easily transfer these “chunks” into their long-term memory. And once in their long-term memory, the learner can more readily access the relevant details when conducting day-to-day activities.
To encourage even better recall among your staff, offer them chunks of information that are thematically linked. This approach encourages people to make immediate connections that facilitate association and memory.
Shorter courses, particularly microlearning sessions, also make it easier for employees to review information between training sessions. Few of your staff will have trouble remembering policies that relate to their daily activities. However, the procedures surrounding an action performed less frequently — say once a quarter — may be a bit harder to recall.
With bite-sized training, the employee can quickly locate and review the relevant information without sifting through entire manuals or scanning through hours of educational videos.
According to the 2015-2016 Industry Benchmark Report assembled by Towards Maturity CIC, 67 percent of eLearning students are accessing their courses via mobile devices. And viewing large batches of information, either in text or video, on a smartphone is less than ideal.
Conversely, shorter courses or training sessions can be consumed readily while traveling or when employees have unexpected downtime away from their desks.
The Next Step
By relying on more easily consumed content to keep staff informed, your business can secure a number of benefits and efficiencies — all while keeping learners more satisfied with the overall process. And better informed staff will lead to greater compliance and performance.