Attention Spans in eLearning


In order to motivate learners, it is important to grab their attention as well as keep it throughout the module. There are many distractions that exist that you may not have considered when designing your elearning. To fully attract a learners attention your goal should be to do something out of the ordinary to pique their interest and be curious to find out what might be next.

Some basic key points to start out with when designing your elearning are:

Relevant Content – if your target audience does not think the content is worthy of their attention, they most likely will not be motivated to give it their full attention. Explain to them why it is relevant and give examples of how the course has positively affected someone in a similar situation.

Achievable Goals – map out the learning journey so that before the learner starts the course they can feel like the goals of the course are achievable, which will give them reason to fully apply themselves.

Recognition – everyone likes to be rewarded for their hard work, and if you offer a meaningful rewards system it will only encourage them to keep going.

To better understand the concept of attention spans and help you when designing your elearning, here is a useful checklist to keep handy that will help a great deal.*

  1. Attention can be thought of as a limited resource.

  2. Selective attention equals focused attention.

  3. Two different types of sources can capture attention.

  4. Top-down selection is relevant to what is in working memory.

  5. Susceptibility to distractions is lowest when a task engages one’s full attention.

  6. Multi-tasking divides attention.

  7. The ability to divide attention is influenced by the similarity of the tasks.

  8. Split-attention in instructional materials increases cognitive load.

  9. An abrupt change can capture attention.

  10. Sustained attention requires something meaningful, challenging or special.

Next time you are creating your content and designing the interactions in your elearning modules, ask yourself, will this component of the course actually give me the learners full attention.

*Malamed, C. 2016. “10 Things You Should Know About Attention.” The eLearning Coach.

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