Recent research suggests that the human attention span is now as low as eight seconds.

That’s two seconds less than the length of a Snapchat, one second less than the attention span of a goldfish and roughly about the time its taken you to read these two sentences.

Whilst this is perhaps a slightly cynical piece of research, I think we can all agree the attention span of the modern learner poses a challenge to the L&D professional.  Not only do learners not always have the time to learn, they now also don't have the attention span to actually engage and retain important information.  Especially if its delivered in a format that is long, rigid and severely boring (flashback to three hour sociology lectures..).

The good news is that digital learning provides the L&D practitioner with a range of tools that can get buy in from even the most easily-distracted learners by presenting learning in manageable, interactive and digestible portions.  I will now (very quickly) outline some of these below.

Cutting It Down to Size


One of the biggest faux pas in learning and particularly e-learning development is cramming a ton of content into one, big, monstrous module.  Especially if the user is forced to complete it in one sitting.

Microlearning gives users information in bitesize chunks and more importantly allows them to dictate the speed and pace of their own learning. Break your content down and keep only the information that’s pertinent to the learning objectives.

Let Them Watch It

In 2016, learners would much rather watch than read.  On YouTube alone there arearound 4 billion video views daily. If you hit a user with pages and pages of text, you’re going to lose their attention pretty quickly. 

Create a short video or animation explaining and outlining the core concepts of your idea.  Make it fun, use characters, put the user in a scenario, make it feel like your company.  By giving them something to watch you’re almost guaranteed to improve their attention span. 

Let Them Play It

Okay, as much as I might like to, I’m not going to bang on about gamification again because I’ve done it time and time again.

But what better way to get some to pay attention than by asking them to actively do something?  If you’re simply presenting them with information, you’re not asking them to interact or engage with the learning.  You’re speaking at them instead of speakingwith them.   Even including the most basic elements of gamification can increase attention span greatly. 

Listen to Your Learners

When designing any learning solution, either digital or face-to-face, don’t ignore the needs and wants of your learners.  All too often a solution is designed based around an idea of what the learner wants, as opposed to what the learner actually wants.

By carrying out surveys, conducting focus groups and questionnaires, you can start to gauge what your learners would enjoy, even for the most challenging topics.  This is really useful during the formative stage and will ultimately help to improve your final offering.

As always thanks for reading!  I’d love to know about other ways you’ve successfully managed to hold your learners attention, particularly using digital learning. 

Junction-18 have over ten years experience in designing and developing digital learning solutions.  If you have a project or idea you would like to discuss, you can mail me or reach me at

Posted by: Nick Ramsay