They say that the average goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds, which is not very long. Well, the humans have that beat! According to several studies, the average adult attention span is now at 8 seconds. In 2000, the average adult attention span was at 12 seconds. So what does this mean for instructional designers?
Some will argue that the development of technology is a cause for the decrease in attention spans, that we constantly need to be stimulated. Just as in any profession, Instructional Designers must learn to adapt to these changes and get creative with their course design and content. One method to incorporate is microlearning.
Microlearning is an approach to designing and delivering training solutions and assessments that has been embraced by designers and learners. The design strategy is to identify smaller steps on the way to full mastery of a topic or learning goal. It shows that a complete grasp of a topic is not the only way to make progress in a self-motivated adult learning experience. Sometimes, a learner just needs to know one component of learning, they don’t need, or have time for, the ‘all inclusive package’.
Technology allows rich content at nearly any time or place and gives designers a lot more freedom and choice when designing the optimal learning experience. At the end of the day, the goal is to get the learner to understand and embrace what they are learning, but to also make it fun and memorable so that they use it!
Point over the Horizon
A microlearning experience is compelling for most learners when they see the next small goal and decide to just “do one more”. To encourage this, the course materials need to be simple and accessible with clear goals and fast feedback. When looking at your course content, look for the smallest parcels of material that be linked but delivered separately. Summarize the main points of any resource and look for end points.
When a learner chooses to progress, it is continuous and relevant– and they are also driven to come back for more and meet the required learning objectives.
Plant Tiny Seeds of Information
Microlearning should always trigger a response for the next module.
It seems that this effect can work even by planting the tiniest kernels of information. Our amazing minds grind away on this information even when we don’t know we are doing it. This resting period allows ideas to settle into our minds and become acclimated. It seems that our brains can work unconsciously even if we don’t engage with specific information for months – it is better inside our heads than out.
Each time the learner returns, they know a little more and are a little more interested, engaged and knowledgeable.
Maintain your Roads
Designing a course with microlearning components is an exciting innovation in training. However, working on the small scale makes it important to keep the big picture in front of the learner. Insert ways to review or provide a summary of the path along the way both forward and backward. A smart roadway provides a mnemonic resource for learners.
When a learner feels successful, they will be confident to use the knowledge they have gained. And this is where the rubber hits the road for designers. When the client has a successful transfer of knowledge and the learners are confident and happy with their experience, they can use the new knowledge quickly.