Safe to say the Learning Technologies show at the start of the month was a resounding success and bigger and better than it’s ever been.  I enjoyed many interesting conversations with learning professionals from all walks of life and found it really insightful to hear about their successes and challenges in terms of digital learning.

There seemed to be one common theme when it came to what learning practitioners and organisations are struggling with: how do you engage the modern learner?

I would make one important distinction here.  Often, people perceive the modern learner to be ‘Gen Y’ or ‘millennials’ or, soon, ‘Gen Z’.  And whilst this is obviously true,  I think this segregation by age though does not take into account the change in learning habits of those outwith these generations.

Let’s face it, many of us listen to our music via Spotify.  We get option paralysis at the Netflix selection screen.  We get an Uber home after a night out.  The way we interact with technology has changed and that applies to all of us.

It’s stating the obvious to say that learning is no longer restricted to the classroom, we all know that.  What has perhaps been lost in translation is how we engage the modern learner using digital learning.   The dull, click-to-next, text text text text image text text format just does not cut it. 

If we’re going to get the most out of digital learning, we must accept the realities about the modern learner. 

Shorter Attention Span


Recent research suggests that the average human attention span is now only 8 seconds,which would in theory mean you’ve stopped reading about 30 seconds ago (I hope I’m wrong!).

Let’s face it though: a Vine is 6 seconds, a Snapchat is 10 seconds, a Tweet is no more than 140 characters.  The modern learner is used to a) communication and b) consuming media in a format that is short and snappy.

If you put this learner in a position where they then have to sit through a piece of e-learning that is slide 1 of 10338292342, it’s not going to work.  If you expect them to sit through hours of e-learning at in one sitting and to be engaged (and actually learn), it’s not going to work.

The shorter attention span of the modern learner provides us with an opportunity to create succinct punchy, effective content.  And to break down larger learning outcomes into smaller, more manageable portions.  And to ultimately deliver digital learning in a format this is already familiar to the modern user.

“If It’s Not On Instagram, It Didn’t Happen”

I’ve read articles which suggest that modern learners (millenials in particular) are narcissistic and self-obsessed, the ‘selfie’ generation.  I think whilst there’s some truth in this and behaviours have certainly has changed, this is an overtly negative stance.

Okay, so we might all Instagram our breakfasts, share stacks of holiday pics and tweet our every thought.  But from a learning perspective, this is a win/win situation.  People are more open to sharing their thoughts, hopes, fears, experiences than they ever have been.  Not only are they open to sharing, they want to share, they want to be social.

We’re Past Being Mobile Ready, We’re Already Mobile

I regularly still see discussion around being ready for mobile or preparing for mobile but the fact of the matter is we’re already there.  And we’re only going to become ‘more mobile’.  

By 2020, there will be over 6.1bn smartphone users worldwide, with 90% of those over the aged of 6 owning a mobile device.

With flash no longer being supported, the traditional in browser model is already being superseded by cross-platform, mobile learning.  By neglecting to develop for mobile, you are missing an opportunity to engage your learner on the platform where they feel most at home.



If you know me at all, you won’t be surprised to see me mention gamification in here too.  I won’t go overboard (as I previously already did that here) however games are another way to make learning engaging for the modern learner and also to improve uptake, usage and learner retention.

You can view some examples of where Junction-18 have successfully implemented gamification in the video above, including the soon to be released construction manager game.

I’d love to know what other methods you’ve found successful to engage your learners, especially using digital learning.

If you’d like to know how about how Junction-18 can help your organisation deliver powerful digital learning for the modern learner, you can reach me any time at  Thank you for reading!

Posted by: Nick Ramsay