Why reducing course length improves retention and engagement

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Over the past decade, online training has increasingly become popular and a powerful tool to share knowledge in a simple way. 
Furthermore, online training plays a key role in making it easy for people to acquire new skills, allowing for different formats that increase knowledge retention.

Knowledge retention is, in fact, key to any learning activity and it may be a bit of a challenge to make sure your audience retains the information you want to convey in an accurate and effective way. Science can help to overcome this challenge.

In this article, we will uncover the science behind learning and how you can increase your audience’s retention with the help of a few useful tips.

It's all about rewards

Biologically, our brain is at constant battle when we face unpleasant situations.

The limbic system will induce us to act primitively and flee from an uncertain situation as fast as possible. It seeks rewards regardless of long-term planning or personality. In contrast, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for planning complex behaviours and expressing personality.

Since the limbic system is older and much stronger than the prefrontal cortex, it very often wins the battle, leading to procrastination.

Procrastination is not about laziness or incompetence. It's rather a self-defense mechanism in our brain that seeks certainty and rewards.


The problem with extensive online training

Knowing that our brain will procrastinate when dealing with uncertainty, we can then extrapolate this understanding to the learning process. Simply put, anyone facing an extensive journey to learn something new will definitely face procrastination.

Long training courses make it difficult to absorb the desired knowledge and are, therefore, not helpful when it comes to students’ retention.

Many organisations face this problem and are not aware of how to overcome it.


Create smaller chunks

Whenever we meet situations where we start to procrastinate, the best way to get out of it is to divide the activity into smaller actions. Splitting big tasks into smaller ones will certainly help, freeing up the brain from the friction caused by the procrastination.

Such technique is commonly used by musicians, singers and other professionals that need to perform big tasks. As an example, when learning to play a new song, a musician usually plays smaller parts before gluing it altogether to perform the whole song.

Working on smaller tasks in order to conquer a bigger goal is something humans have mastered since the beginning of time. It is clear when we cook a meal, or drive a car.


Create shorter online courses

After understanding the problem, we can then suggest that the best way to increase knowledge retention is by creating shorter courses.

When creating a course, it’s important to divide the content you want to convey into smaller pieces like modules and chapters. As an example, when creating a video training course, each chapter should not be longer than 3 minutes.


5 tips to help you create an effective training course

1. Record shorter videos: try to be concise; avoid repetitions; invest in design elements that promote a higher retention rate.

2. Avoid creating courses with too many chapters: whenever possible, divide your content into different courses with a smaller amount of modules and chapters.

3. Create Learning Paths: shorter courses that are part of a training journey tend to be more attractive to the audience.

4. Give your students some time to think: it's important to build, throughout the course, chapters that are designed to make your learners reflect on the content. These can be quizzes, open questions about the topic, and so on.

5. Use (short) documents: long documents are heavy and hard to read. Avoid them and write concise content even for the course’s additional and supporting resources.

There are many things that influence learners’ attention and retention. In this article, we focused on how the length of the training content influences knowledge retention and engagement. If you feel this could be influencing your training audience’s experience, take a look at your courses and take them from a learner perspective. You can also check your training platform’s reporting area for metrics such as course completion rate, quizzes and tests’ scores, and student feedback.

Learn more about how to create effective video training courses, in an efficient way, in this eBook created by bugle's Digital Learning Solutions' team.

How to create a video training course ebook

You may also find interesting:

Design tips to create effective training videos (article)
Why visual communications are key to creating effective videos (article)
How to increase your audience's engagement with your course (article)
Video formats for Training (Video & Poster)
Using video in online training: the instructional design perspective (article)
How education shaped Humankind (article)

Would you like to learn more about how bugle can help you with your company's training needs? Let's talk.

Writen by Leandro Proença
05-Nov-2020 09:15:00

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