Teaching to Short Attention Spans Really Comes Down to One Thing

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June 12, 2017

A few months ago we conducted a survey that asked workers what they sometimes find themselves doing during their virtual training sessions.

42% said they tune out to perform work-related tasks.

Okay, while engagement is critical for sessions to be productive, it’s hard to fault an employee for prioritizing work over training. We could even give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the task was critical and that they’ll circle back with their hosts to get any information they missed.

If the biggest reason workers tune out is work-related, then our training engagement issues can’t be too bad, right?

They wouldn’t be if 39% didn’t say the biggest reason they check out is to daydream. (We didn’t ask what they were daydreaming about, but I think we can safely assume it’s not work-related.)

Let that sink in.

While 17% copped to socializing with co-workers and 14% said they either connect with friends via texts or social media or simply browse the web, you can at least argue that workers are engaged enough to be absorbing what’s most important. Perhaps these activities are taking place during unplanned lulls or side discussions that don’t concern them.

I’m not even as concerned with the 5% of workers who admit they fall asleep altogether because these are workers who are probably already poor performers about to be let go anyway, right?

But daydreaming, the complete detachment from one’s surroundings, is a big concern for virtual trainers. So what to do about it?

There is no shortage of handy tips that aim to help instructors keep their audiences engaged:

  • Some say you should be teaching in bursts. (True, but read on…)
  • Some say you should be incorporating breaks. (True, but read on…)
  • Some say you should be gamifying your sessions to make them more fun. (True, but read on…)

These and the many other tips you can find elsewhere (such as our own blog posts) can combine well with the many innovations CoSo Cloud brings to virtual training to help keep your workers, partners, customers, and others engaged.

Many researchers have come out with stats that suggest the average human attention span is 8 seconds. (About the same of a goldfish.) Do you know the best way to expand that span? Hold the person accountable.

Don’t just assume your audiences are engaged. Don’t just assume they’ve absorbed the information. Check it the same way teachers check their pupils. Reel them in constantly. Call on them. Quiz them. Check their knowledge. When there’s a sense that somebody could be called on at any time, there’s a safer bet that they’ll put their daydreams aside.

And then, afterward, test your learns. Grade them. Give them feedback. It could end up being the trainer’s most time-consuming chore, but it’s arguably the most important one. Not only does it help learners learn, it helps instructors learn where their own sessions could use improvement.

Happy training!

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