Digesting Learning Content – one bite at a time

by 31 May, 2017 0

According to a study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain. How does this compare? A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds!

While this might come to some as a shocking statistic it highlights the need to change the way we engage our audience and how we adapt to ensure that learning is delivered in such a way that it doesn’t conflict with the ever shrinking attention span.

There are two main concepts to consider when adapting a learning environment:

  1. Make the content interesting and engaging. This is not new. Anyone can lose focus if the topic of the material is not relevant (to them) and if it is visually unappealing and “boring”.
  2. Deliver content in bite sized pieces. Your mother probably told you to take small bites and chew well. We don’t have to agree with your mother’s food advice but in the world of training content, we need to keep the content focused, relevant and in small enough pieces to maximize retention before the audience loses attention.


“Nobody wants to be presented with a manual and told to sit down and learn the contents.”


It didn’t work well in the past and even less so in today’s on demand world. Today’s employees are increasingly overwhelmed, distracted and impatient. They look for “just in time answers” to solve problems related to getting their jobs done. Nothing more, nothing less. By allowing a natural language search, tailored to the jargon and acronyms used within the specific organization, a training system can return hyper-relevant search results. These can then give the most relevant training to answer the specific question without requiring the employee to filter out the piece of information they needed. It should not feel like training, rather it should feel like getting an important question answered in an accurate simplified form.

So, what format should training content be delivered in to cater to today’s workforce?

The answer to that depends very much on the question being asked and the answer being given. Here are some guidelines which can be applied to any scenario:

  1. If the answer is short, usually less than two paragraphs of text, then simply present it on the page like you would find in a search engine.
  2. If the answer requires explaining a concept, or to show the relationship between a number of different components, it is best done visually and using an infographic which is a single page with a combination of images and with a small amount of text.
  3. If the answer is longer and with too much detail to fit onto a single page, a short video is the answer. A 15 or 30 second video can transmit a lot of information in a short space of time.
  4. If the answer is to explain a process which involves a number of steps then a video presentation with screen captures of the process being executed in a real world environment familiar to the viewer is the most appropriate. While videos should be kept as short as possible, if the reality is that the process being explained does take several minutes, it’s important to ensure that the video is indexed with links to jump to various points in the video. This is especially useful when the viewer needs to refresh their memory on a certain piece of the process. Nobody wants to scroll through a video trying to find the piece they want.


In summary, ensure that training content is short, hyper relevant and available on-demand.