No Worries. You are not alone. In 2015, the average attention span of an internet user was 8.25 seconds (down from 12 seconds in 2000). A goldfish can pay attention for 9 seconds, so we are now moving into gnat territory.
Now for the good news. If you are teaching an online course, your students are committed to staying with you. Up to a point. Digital delivery of learning means that you have to actively engage you students on a regular basis.
The purist in you might want to against these trends. How can a teacher actually explore anything meaningful if no one will pay attention to go deep enough?
Instead of fighting a losing battle, find your inner realist and ask yourself how you can turn the reality of shorter attention spans into an asset for online learning?
Gnat-like attention spans have implications for every aspect of your ecourse.
1. Learning outcomes: The trend of easy distraction forces you to be crystal clear about the learning objectives of the overall course and each unit. You no longer have the luxury to float a lose idea in your head about what the students will learn. If you don’t nail it down to a specific action-oriented, observable outcome, you will lose them very quickly.
2. Chunking: Information must be presented in appropriate-sized chunks. Think bite-sized, not super-sized. Clarity is also the key here. Focus on each individual piece of information at a time.
3. Re-align attention: Design your course with the assumption that your students will get distracted no matter how “advanced” you think they are. Your job is to realign your students’ attention just before it is gone down the path of the gnat. Stop after each chunk of learning and ask a question, pose a conundrum, say something unexpected or something creative to pull them back to the course content.
4. Hooks: Show explicitly how each new lesson connects to what was previously taught. This gives students a place in their brain to start storing the new information – “oh, this goes over here with that stuff.” And the new information becomes more important and more likely to garner attention.
The decrease attention span from our digital world could lead you to think that a successful online teacher has to entertain or create videos with Hollywood-level production. In fact, that is a bad idea. You have to be a better teaching: crystal clear purpose, super organized ideas and commitment to meeting student where they are, and helping students create meaning.
You eventually could figure out how to work with short attention spans of digital learners. But, I can help you get there much faster. Apply for a free 1x1 strategy session to get moving on that ecourse now.