You’ve heard it before. It’s something repeated so often that many of us simply accept it as fact. But is it true? Are our attention spans really getting shorter?
The truth is more complicated than you might suppose. As leaders in the e-learning and event spaces, we recognize the importance of getting to the bottom of this. Because even if there’s only a sliver of truth to it, shrinking attention spans have massive implications for your learning and development initiatives.
For years, CommPartners has existed at the intersection of events and education. We’ve offered virtual and hybrid event services for well over a decade. In 2014, we launched our award-winning learning management system, Elevate.
At a glance, these might strike you as two distinct offerings. But they do more than complement one another. To make the most of one, you need the other. Though each can stand on their own, something special happens when they come together.
This is a time of unification. As Cadmium, we have united with our sister companies in support of our shared mission to unify events and education. But what exactly does that look like? Here’s our vision.
A growing consensus suggests that microlearning will be the future of L&D. Tailor-made for millennials and Generation Z, this new philosophy of education seems set to dominate the world of online learning.
We have easier access to information than ever before. 2021 seems like a learner’s paradise. But there’s a dark side to all of this: your e-learning content faces stiff competition.
The lure of your LMS needs to be more enticing than Netflix, social media, and mobile games. Microlearning can be part of the solution.
You can probably guess what microlearning is from the name: learning delivered in bite-sized bits. But size is subjective. So how long should microlearning be?
Microlearning Gets Macro Results
But first, we’ll give you a micro crash course on microlearning.
Microlearning is more of a philosophy than something you can point to. The foundation of this philosophy is that, rather than emphasizing long-form learning content, you should use plenty of short materials, too.
Microlearning can take nearly any form. It could be a podcast, and infographic, a quiz, or a video. Just keep it short.
Keep in mind that macrolearning still matters. Short learning materials don’t count as microlearning if they exist in a vacuum. Longer learning opportunities need to exist, too. But microlearning can work toward those macro goals.
Here are some microlearning examples to get your gears turning:
Brief, informational writing (think blog posts and handouts)
For the purposes of this blog, we’ll refer primarily to the runtime of audio and video, which is far-and-away the favorite microlearning format. But the philosophy we’ll share today can apply to any learning material.
The Ideal Microlearning Length
Now, onto the question at hand: how long should microlearning be?
Historically, education has been dominated by roughly hour-long sessions. These alone won’t cut it in the digital age.
Think back to the last event you attended. Were you able to give speakers your full, undivided attention for the duration of their talks?
No matter how interesting the content, attention ebbs and flows. It’s only human. We’ve become accustomed to a fast paced, constant flow of information. We should deliver learning in brief bursts, too, if it should have any chance at keeping up.
So what’s the ideal microlearning length? Here’s our rule of thumb: 10 minutes or less.
Every rule of thumb has its limits, and this one does too. There can definitely be exceptions (more on that later).
Our Rationale Behind the Ideal Microlearning Length
A search on the web for the average human attention span will yield shockingly disparate results.
There is a persistent myth that the millennial attention span is no longer than that of a goldfish, or around 8 seconds. Writers all over the internet have parroted this claim.
Don’t believe it. This idea does a disservice to your learners (and probably goldfish, too). Experts have debunked this claim over and over again.
Others have suggested that somewhere closer to 15 minutes is more accurate. Yet this compelling article from the American Physiological Society shows that even these more generous claims were dredged up from murky data.
Ultimately, attention span is hard to measure. It exists on a spectrum, so often there is no black and white distinction between “paying attention” and “not paying attention.” You can never pinpoint the precise moment when attention declines.
Still, there is overwhelming evidence that consumers have come to prefer shorter content. You might think that the most downloaded app of 2020 was Zoom. In fact, it was TikTok.
Millions of people across the world sunk countless hours into an app that specialized in videos under 60 seconds in length (they’ve since boosted the cap to 3 minutes).
TikTok is for entertainment, not education. But its wild popularity has big implications for e-learning.
When determining how long microlearning should be, we settled on 10 minutes as a good goal to shoot for. This gives you enough time to get a whole lot of information across,
Not only does this break your learning materials into more convenient and digestible chunks for your learners, but it forces educators to think differently, too. Learning how to cut out the fluff and compress your message into a smaller timeframe is a useful exercise for all.
How Micro Is Too Micro?
Then there’s the follow-up question: how short is too short for microlearning?
Again, there are no hard and fast rules about what qualifies as microlearning and what doesn’t. But if we had to answer, we’d say that anything under 1 minute is unlikely to have substantial educational value for your learners.
That’s right—we’ve seen plenty of success with videos around 2 minutes in length. We use them ourselves. 120 seconds is probably longer than you give it credit for, and you can squeeze plenty of information in that timeframe.
A Better Rule of Thumb?
But there might be a better answer to this question: your microlearning content can be as short as you want it to be.
Like we mentioned earlier, microlearning is more of a mindset than anything else. The point is not to inflate your learning content when you’ve said what you want to say. You should always stop recording when you’ve made your point.
Remember that microlearning is more of a mindset than anything else. As you put together your learning portfolio, ask yourself:
Can I get this message across in a more succinct way?
Are there ample microlearning opportunities in my portfolio?
Learners crave diversity. Sprinkling elements of microlearning throughout your LMS will keep them learning their best.
Implement Microlearning with Elevate LMS
Our award-winning learning management system, Elevate, has all the tools you need to unleash the potential of microlearning. Mix and match the modules you need to create a diverse and engaging learning portfolio.
Your learners will get out of your Learning Management System (LMS) what they put into it. To make the most of any online learning platform, you need to engage learners virtually. LMS engagement initiatives will make the difference between an all-star elearning strategy and a middling one.
We want you to make the most of your learning management system. These proven learner engagement strategies will help you do exactly that.
We live in a world where most of us pay for our fair share of subscriptions. But we don’t always utilize the services we pay for as often as we should. Sometimes, you might even forget about them. Still, a simple email can call you right back.
You can use the site news tool in Elevate LMS to the same effect. Use it to remind learners of newly added content, upcoming events, as well as older content they might have missed. A well-written email will get your learners to engage with your LMS in no time.
As the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life. This applies as well to e-learning as it does to anything else.
Formal, curriculum-based learning has its place. But a complete education consists of more than just textbook and tests.
Diversify your learning portfolio as much as you can for better LMS engagement. Keep the learning experience from becoming mundane with the following educational tools:
Podcasts and other informal learning opportunities
When you incorporate this kind of variety into your LMS, you’ll realize it can even be just as easy engaging your learners online as in person.
If your learners can only access your LMS when they sit down in front of a computer, then learner engagement will suffer. But if they can access it from their cell phone? That’s a whole different story.
Ease of access will make a world of difference for your LMS engagement levels. We’ve made Elevate LMS mobile functional, so learners can squeeze in quick microlearning sessions on the go.
Speaking of convenience, you know what’s really inconvenient? Juggling countless different passwords. If simply signing into an LMS is an obstacle, engagement will decline.
We streamline this process by incorporating SSO, or single sign-on. This plays a small but significant role in our quest to engage learners virtually.
We believe that online learning experiences can be every bit as impactful as in-person ones. But we also recognize that a social component is essential for creating a more meaningful educational experience.
The more you look into how to engage learners virtually, the more you will realize that learning can’t exist without community.
Here’s the good news: online learning and community aren’t mutually exclusive. A good LMS will enable social, peer-to-peer learning.
Take the example of Elevate. Our learning management system offers forums and has an extensive integration with Higher Logic, an online community engagement platform. Let these social learning tools live at the center of your learner engagement strategy.
Engage Learners Virtually with Elevate LMS
Your organization’s education goals are bold. Elevate LMS can help you meet them. It contains all the tools you need to engage learners virtually and create a culture of learning.
Our award-winning online learning platform has helped hundreds of associations and nonprofits make their L&D aspirations a reality. Will yours be next?
When you’re ready to take your education strategy to new heights, get in touch with us. Reach out to Meghan Gowen at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more content like this, keep up with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Microlearning is one of the biggest buzzwords in online learning. If you’re already familiar with the e-learning space, you don’t need us to tell you that. Breaking learning down into bite-sized chunks is intuitive, fun, and—most importantly—it gets results.
You don’t have to take it from us. Take a look at the research. Brief bursts of learning result in demonstrably greater knowledge retention than long-form content. Microlearning flattens the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve.
With our help, you can harness the power of this new mode of learning. Here are 5 ways that you can create microlearning with Elevate LMS.
1. Mobile Functionality
Anyone can benefit from microlearning. But it’s ESPECIALLY suited to the generation that grew up with smartphones in their hands.
Most of us think of cell phones and similar mobile devices as strictly for utilitarian or entertainment purposes. Yet they can be powerful learning tools, too.
Elevate LMS is mobile functional. This allows learner to squeeze in quick study sessions on the bus, in line at the bank, or any other brief moment of downtime throughout the day.
2. Short Videos
We’re quite accustomed to attending hour-long talks. But sometimes, no matter how effective the speaker or interesting the material, you just can’t give them your undivided attention. Not for long, anyway.
Around the 10-minute mark, attention might start to wane. Learning comes to a halt.
What’s the solution? Some would say coffee. We don’t disagree. But you know what might be better? A shorter lecture.
Right now, video is far-and-away the favorite microlearning format. Instead of including 30-minute instructional videos in your LMS, try 10, 5, or even 2-minute ones. Your users will remain more focused and have an easier time retaining what they’ve learned.
Stack enough of these microlearning videos on top of each other, and you’ll make no sacrifices in total knowledge transfer.
Still, you’ll want to evaluate your learners’ progress. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to implement microlearning in your knowledge checks: quizzes.
You already know what quizzes are, but have you ever thought of them as an example of microlearning? If tests are macro, then quizzes are micro.
Elevate LMS makes it easy to craft quizzes that maximize learning and retention of knowledge.
Remember that even brief knowledge checks can pack a big punch. They reinforce the information your learners have just encountered, while also giving them a sense of where they might need to improve.
We’re accustomed to thinking that podcasts should be long, but they really don’t have to be. Don’t blindly buy into the idea that informative audio needs to fulfill a half-hour or longer timeslot.
Why not experiment with a shorter podcast format? Try putting a couple 10-minute-long clips out there and see how your learners respond.
Without the intimidation of a long run-time, they might find it easier to listen into these sessions while doing the dishes, or on quick drives to the grocery store.
Short but informative podcasts are a spectacular informal learning tool in a microlearning format. Trim the fat from your audio materials and jump right to the chase for a better return on the time invested by your learners.
Forgive us for using the cliché, but here goes: a picture is worth a thousand words.
Like so many other cliches, this one gets repeated so often for a reason: it’s true. A single image can convey more information than a wall of text, and in a more intuitive, approachable format.
Start thinking of infographics as a prime example of microlearning at work in your LMS. Don’t bog them down with information. Make sure it’s easy to extract important info at a glance.
Don’t Forget Your Macrolearning Goals!
With these tools at your disposal, you now know how to implement microlearning into Elevate LMS.
But keep this in mind: none of the things we’ve listed above are microlearning on their own. They only become microlearning if they contribute toward a broader, macro goal.
Think of macrolearning as the main course of your education strategy. Microlearning is the appetizer and—if you do it right—the dessert, too.
Create Microlearning with Elevate LMS
CommPartners knows what it takes to power enduring educational experiences. Our award-winning learning management system, Elevate LMS, contains all the tools you need to implement microlearning and propel the rapid intake of knowledge.
Hybrid events are on the rise, and this should come as no surprise. They allow you to roll all the perks of a purely in-person or virtual approach into one unified educational experience. But they do come with a potential pitfall: failing to deliver on virtual audience engagement.
Today, we’ll share a few tips to help hybrid event speakers captivate their virtual audience from afar. But first:
Why Virtual Attendee Engagement Matters for Hybrid Events
You don’t need us to tell you that audience engagement is crucial to the success of any event—be it in-person, virtual, or hybrid. So why should we address engaging virtual attendees at hybrid events in particular?
As the world of events went virtual in response to COVID-19, we saw that this approach was not a temporary inconvenience to tolerate. On the contrary, it’s something we should embrace. Going virtual lets us reach new audiences, opening the doors for unprecedented levels exposure and engagement.
The potential of hybrid events is even greater. But as speakers face in-person spectators once more, they run the risk of forgetting about what will likely be the majority of their audience: those tuning in virtually.
In other words: failing to engage remote attendees does a disservice to the largest contingent of your hybrid event. Reach, impact, and—ultimately—ROI will suffer.
Don’t worry. Over the past year and longer, we’ve learned what it takes to command the attention of remote attendees. And we won’t leave the tools and techniques we picked up by the wayside as events hybridize.
An effective speaker can combat a sense of voyeurism and FOMO among remote attendees. With these tips in mind, you’ll be equipped to engage a virtual audience at your next hybrid event.
Our MediaCenter2.0 tool allows your speakers to engage with audiences both remote and virtual, but here are a few non-technology based methods to keep your learners and attendees engaged.
Acknowledge Virtual Attendees Early
There are two kinds of teachers.
There are those who show up to class right on time and head out the moment the bell rings. Then there are the teachers who arrive to class early, strike up conversations with students, and invite them to their office for a friendly chat after class. Which do you suppose is the more effective instructor?
Ultimately, this is more than a matter of friendliness; it’s about building engagement. The simple act of acknowledgment prevents virtual audiences from feeling like onlookers.
Perhaps you aren’t a teacher by trade. But everyone who engages in public speaking is, in that very moment, teaching.
Take a cue from the playbook of the best teachers. Take time at the beginning of your hybrid event, and take a moment to acknowledge the faces behind the screens. Engaging in a brief dialogue with the virtual attendees will pay dividends.
Break the Ice
But how exactly should you go about acknowledging them? Try a few icebreakers.
The mere mention of the term ‘icebreaker’ can illicit moans and groans from an audience. Don’t describe them as such. Instead, find a more organic way to break the ice.
Educations works best when it’s a dialogue. Communication should flow both ways, if only for a few moments. To get the dialogue going, start out with a couple questions directed at virtual attendees:
Where are you tuning in from?
What’s the weather like there?
What topics do you hope we’ll cover today?
Sure, our first two question seem a whole lot like small talk. That’s because they are. And is there anything wrong with that?
When the world went digital due to COVID-19, we found that what we missed most was human interaction. We could live without the commute, but we grew to miss little exchanges in the halls or around the water cooler. And yes—we even missed small talk.
We don’t want to wax nostalgic. But we do want to emphasize this: small talk is innately human. And when your virtual attendees recognize you as human, they’ll feel more engaged.
Most hybrid event configurations keep the microphones of virtual attendees muted. So how will they respond to your questions?
Chat Box & Polling
Any good hybrid event configuration should have an engagement tool. This could take the form of a polling feature or simply a chat box.
Before the event begins, find out what engagement tools you have at your disposal and give some thought to how you’ll employ them. You should consider using them in support of your icebreaker questions and sprinkling them throughout the presentation as well.
Let’s return to the classroom analogy. Think back to your days in school. On the (rare, we’re sure) occasions when your attention started to wane, few things could jolt you back to reality like the teacher calling on you.
The aim of the chat box and polling features isn’t exactly to put your learners on the spot. Instead, they engage your virtual audience by injecting an element of interactivity and community into the hybrid event experience.
When implemented well, both of these tools will make your remote attendees feel every bit as involved as in-person participants.
Make Eye Contact
Alright, alright. You can’t truly make eye contact with your virtual audience. But you can approximate the sensation of eye contact by occasionally addressing the camera rather than in-person attendees.
Honestly, this may be the most difficult thing for speakers to adjust to. Directing your gaze evenly among the audience is one of the most foundational tenets of good public speaking. It can be counter-intuitive to address an inanimate object such as a camera when there sit real, living and breathing people right in front of you.
But this is something you’ll have to get over if you hope to keep virtual attendees engaged. Keep the location of the camera in mind, and take the time to look at it occasionally—especially when responding to remote questions and comments.
Don’t overdo it, though; just an occasional glance at the camera can go a long way.
Tell Your Story
We’ll close with a bit of advice that will help you engage audiences in general—whether dealing with a hybrid audience or not.
After all, the best way to keep virtual attendees engaged is simply great public speaking. If you can captivate a live audience right in front of you, with a little guidance you’ll have no problem doing the same to audiences both near and far.
To engage your virtual audience, take part in the oldest art form: storytelling.
Time and time again, neurologists have proven that our brains are most engaged when invested in a narrative. This is why you’ll be on the edge of your seat during an action-packed movie, but fall asleep on your text books.
Narratives are a tried-and-true engagement tool that every speaker should employ. They need not take up the majority of your presentation to be effective. But they’re a great place to start.
Use a story to showcase your humanity and reel your audience in. Just make sure it ties in to the ultimate point you’re trying to make!
Create Engaging Hybrid Events with CommPartners
CommPartners powers enduring educational experiences. Our award-winning Elevate LMS gives you all the tools you need to maximize the impact of your next hybrid event. Allow our expert Event Producers to make sure it goes off without a hitch.
When you’re ready for unprecedented levels of reach, revenue, and retention, we can make it happen with our e-learning and events expertise.