In life, there are only two certainties: 1) you’ll have to pay taxes and 2) you’ll die. And allthough some people deny the existence of one or even both certainties (and to be honest, the second one seems to be the most disputable). But as an instructional designer, I would like to add even a third one to these life of life: you’ll have to go through horrible, unapppealing e-learning courses at some point in your educational and/or professional career.
Every company or school seems to have at least one internal or external supplier of e-learning courses that is turning out products, which only purpose of existence seems to be to torment learners…
And when you are invited to go through another horrible online learning experience, you just want to get done with it as soon as possible. And you’re right thinking that and acting like that.
So, why do we keep getting these courses in our mailboxes or digital learning environments?
Learners attention is just one critical question away
Well, for a lot of e-learning courses, the focus of the designer is in the first place at the content itself. Hours and hours are spent on developing beautiful and well designed courses, using the latest insights and technical possibilities. No relevant piece of information is being left out, no assessment forgotten.
But, when all instructional designers, IT and webdesigners have left, their course ends up with the most important link in the whole process, and that’s the learner himself. And it’s up to the learner to decide if all the hard work was worth it.
And when the learner starts your course, the most important phase begins: the phase in which the learner’s attention either is being attracted to your course and kept there, or he looses his attention and tries to complete the course as soon as possible, or even doesn’t complete it at all. In the first case, your course is very likely to succeed, in the second case you simply fail.
The most important question you will have to ask yourself and your team is not concerning your learning goals, lay out or of any technical matter, but if your course (or training as a whole, instruction movie, etc. etc.) really engages the learner from the start untill the end. If you can engage the learner, you can and will keep his attention.
Attention span of a goldfish
Engaging a learner from the start doesn’t mean you start with a list of learning goals or objectives. Or a long textual introduction, for that matter. You’ll have to grab the learner’s attention from the first second.
Every second is crucial, and to illustrate this I will give you an insight from a recent study by Microsoft, which concluded that the average human nowadays has an attention span of eight seconds, while a goldfish can hold it out for nine seconds.
So, really engage the learner in the first seconds in their encounter with your course, and you will keep it. If not, you risk being or becoming one of those suppliers of horrible courses no one likes.