Everyone is talking about how short attention spans are these days, especially when writing for eLearning.
It seems everywhere you go, learning and development professionals are lamenting the death of our ability to focus, as a species.
Three minutes, they say. That’s our new limit.
There are a variety of responses people often take–locking down navigation, telling stories and examples, and using micro-learning.
These can all be fine decisions, if you make them in the right context, for the right reasons.
But do people really have such short attention spans? Or do you need to revisit how you’re writing your eLearning?
Here are four alternate explanations to why people aren’t engaged with your eLearning, that have nothing to do with attention spans.
If your people are struggling to get through each day, constantly swimming upstream against shifting priorities, your eLearning doesn’t stand a chance. When everything is urgent, nothing is–even training. Especially training.
This is true even if your eLearning holds the secret to getting it all done. It doesn’t matter if your eLearning spells out the ancient recipe for the elixir of life (also known as Coca-Cola). Or comes with a random giveaway of early retirement–all expenses included. No one wants to pull another late night to accommodate training when they’re already stretched to the breaking point.
People who are overwhelmed and under-appreciated can only go through the motions, because they’re too busy keeping the plates spinning to absorb new information. And if there’s a culture of fear, this problem is even more pronounced, because the penalties for missing a deadline will override even the most powerful intrinsic motivation.
And this scenario doesn’t bode well for innovation, either.
You haven’t explained why this eLearning matters.
In a healthy workplace, most people want to do a good job. No one wants to be the mediocre person who makes all the rock stars look good. They want to be the rock star, they want the admiration of their boss and peers. They want to earn raises and bonuses and promotions.
This means, you need to understand what’s holding them back or be able to identify the pain points of their jobs. Even if you’re teaching something that covers all jobs, like anti-harassment, the reason the learner cares needs to shine through. It could be as simple as highlighting the increased job security of not getting sued.
If people think your eLearning is irrelevant, they’ll still take it, because you’re probably making them. They’ll answer the quiz and promptly forget everything. Even though they’re employees, the burden is still on the organization to prove why they need to pay attention at all.
The eLearning writes to the lowest common denominator.
Sometimes, an eLearning course is on its way to greatness, when someone gets cold feet. “Hold on,” they say. “This question is kind of tricky. Let’s not make it so hard.”
While writing good eLearning means avoiding trick questions, to engage people you sometimes need to stump them a little. And you might be surprised how asking the hard question first can show your learners that your topic is more interesting or challenging than they thought.
You can expose a weakness, while making people want to conquer a challenge, all in the privacy of a browser. Why not take advantage?
However, people sometimes instinctively want to make it as easy as possible. This defeats the inherent value of the training–improvement. If most of your learners can ace the quiz or follow the best path of the branching scenario right out of the gate, do you really need a training? No. You don’t.
This approach fails to improve the low performers and alienates everyone else. Instead, write to the highest level of achievement you want, and design your eLearning to help people get there.
They’re close to finding their next job.
If your learners have all but written their Dear John letter, good luck getting engagement in your eLearning, even if you’ve written it brilliantly. Fantastically writing eLearning is better than awful eLearning, however, people who have checked out have checked out in totality.
If you have a strong corporate-wide engagement and retention policy, this should be minimal. You can’t prevent it completely. However, if there’s an epidemic, you need to examine your organization at a much higher level.
If you would like eLearning that proves people can and do pay attention when it’s done right, contact me today. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (314) 896-0001.