Shorter attention span and the effect on learning


Shorter attention span and the effect on learning

Do you ever feel like your attention span is getting shorter? It’s not just your imagination. New research has revealed that human beings are, indeed, flakier than ever before! In fact, the average human attention span has shrunk by nearly a quarter in just 15 years from 12 to 8 seconds. We’re now lagging behind the goldfish in terms of being able to focus on a task or object. And it is true that there are more demands for our attention than ever before.

It’s by design that the popular TEDx talks are kept to an 18-minute time frame. They know that we’re likely to stay engaged through the whole presentation. Now, whether or not this has anything to do with our shrinking attention span, the pace we run at combined with the constant barrage of information coming at us, suggests that we’ve developed a preference for, and come to expect, shorter, faster messages.

How does this affect corporate learning?

As we think about how our constant distractions and shorter attention spans are affecting the corporate environment, we first need to look at what’s going on within our workplaces. Firstly, it’s not only teenagers and millennials who are addicted to smartphones and social media alerts. This spans all generations. Secondly, our workplace technology has vastly changed.

On work laptops employees juggle email messages, instant messaging and group messaging, while checking their smartphones for social media updates and personal emails. What’s more is that employee days are still filled with meetings and demanding deadlines, and yes, the actual phone still rings.

When it comes to corporate learning, it’s no wonder that once an employee gets to a classroom or sits down to an e-learning platform they quickly lose focus if the course is too long or the material too dense and drawn out. They’re used to being distracted, and they’ve come to anticipate an interruption. When it doesn’t come, their mind begins to wander away. What happens is that they don’t effectively learn and retain the material. Necessary learning is lost, time and money are wasted, and both trainer and employee are feeling frustrated.

How do we tailor learning to shorter attention spans?

One of the advantages of a shorter attention span is that people have become used to learning things in a very short amount of time - meaning that they can focus on something being taught quickly and absorb it immediately. The key here being that the subject needs to be taught quickly and get to the point right away.

Critical training elements can be conveyed in smaller doses, also known as microlearning, and can be accessed anywhere, anytime via laptop, tablet, and mobile devices. Microlearning includes familiar things like blogs, games, quizzes, podcasts, simulations and videos. Not only is this e-learning format more convenient, it gives employees more control over their time and their learning experience.

Microlearning is a win-win for both employer and employee. It can be developed quickly and at a lower cost than a more traditional training. It can also be accessed outside of critical business hours, another benefit for both employee and manager.

Whether or not our attention spans are shrinking, the plea for our attention is real. To help your employees access critical learning while balancing the other demands on their time, we can meet them where they are by designing a more efficient and convenient microlearning trainings.

Marguerite Stolp

Marguerite Stolp

Back to overview

Hoe kunnen we je helpen met jouw project?

We zijn hier om te helpen. Of je nu een verzoek of een vraag hebt.


Ariane van Rossem

Account Manager

Arjan Toet

Learning Architect, Director