How You Organize Content: The Key to Effective Online Training

online learning solution
March 12, 2018

online learning solution

You may have heard of the Microsoft study that discovered the human attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2015. Goldfish, in comparison, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds. This has broad implications for online training.

What has caused this decline in focus? It’s all due to smartphone adoption over the past decade or so, says Microsoft in its study. We are now so captivated by mobile devices that many of us check more than a hundred times a day.

For businesses, this shortened attention span can derail your online training plans very quickly.

This blog post will look at some common mistakes trainers make when designing online courses in an era of short attention spans, with some simple planning tips that will help you maintain engagement and make sure your elearning is effective.

Common Pitfalls When Organizing Your Elearning

If you invest the time and money into an online learning program, it’s important to make sure your trainees are paying attention and will in fact learn what they need to stay safe on the job and help your business grow. Unfortunately, even if your trainees have the mental focus of an eagle instead of a goldfish, they may struggle to learn anything at all.

Why? It’s challenging for some trainers to create online learning that engages trainees. At Udutu, we’ve identified several common pitfalls trainers encounter when creating online training:

1) Too little time is devoted to planning

One approach to creating online learning we see from our customers is to use the Udutu course authoring tool to quickly convert a PowerPoint slide deck into an online course. A quiz of some kind might be tacked on to the end to serve as an assessment tool.

The problem is that PowerPoint presentations are intended to be delivered by a human presenter; used alone, slide decks are not enough to train trainees. Without a human presenter, it’s much harder to keep learners engaged, to ensure measurable learning to take place.

2) An “infodump” approach that crushes engagement

Another typical scenario is to create training that is too long because it’s not sufficiently focused on the learning objective. For trainers setting out to transmit to trainees, everything they have stored in their heads is important, so it’s tempting to pile everything into a single course.

But with information overload, trainees don’t know where to focus and become overwhelmed, and, once again, little learning takes place. This is why it’s important to focus on specific learning objectives that are achievable and measurable.

3) trainees are forced to wade through material they already know

Trainees are often required to sit through training about concepts they already know or that are just common sense. By the time trainees encounter concepts they’re unfamiliar with and need to know for their jobs, they have lost enthusiasm and have become distracted.

This is of course an unproductive use of their time, but it can be fixed by following a few tips when organizing your online learning.

The Key to Creating Online Learning: Be Realistic

The most effective way to create truly engaging online learning is to be realistic about what you can accomplish in a limited amount of time. So, when you start creating your elearning module, ask the question: “What can we realistically achieve in 12 minutes?”

Why 12 minutes?

Because that’s generally the maximum amount of time you’re going to keep your trainees engaged with your training. After that, like a goldfish, they’ll get distracted and no learning will occur.

So, if you have half an hour set aside for training, plan for no more than three elearning modules (to make this all add up some modules will need to be less than 12 minutes).

Tip: Begin With the End In Mind

It can be challenging to design content that provides measurable learning outcomes in 12 minutes. One tip we’ve learned at Udutu is to “begin with the end in mind.” Determine your learning objectives, and then work backwards. Here are some tips for doing that:

1) Make a list of your learning objectives, and then edit ruthlessly

Make a list of all the learning objectives — the concepts you’d really like your trainees to learn in a half hour. Next, prioritize these objectives: what do your trainees really need to know, right away, to help your business?

Finally, you have the brutal task of chopping off the objectives you can’t fit in. Save these for your next training module.

2) Make measurable statements for your learning objectives

The hardest part of the course is trying to articulate your learning objectives into language that is measurable.

For example, perhaps you’re trying to ensure your trainees will know exactly what to do in case of a fire:

Ineffective learning outcome: “Participants will know what to do in a fire.”

Effective: “At the end of this half-hour participants will be able to demonstrate they can identify the location of the fire extinguisher.”

This then measures the trainees have demonstrated they know what to do following the training.

Next, here are some examples of concrete, measurable learning objectives in an online course delivered by college in Canada:

udutu course authoring

As you can see above, every statement for every learning objective must be measurable. Once you have come up with some truly measurable learning objectives, creating the actual content with a course authoring tool is straightforward.

Indeed, Udutu provides the tools to do just that.

3) Focus on remediation or learning new concepts

Sometimes, training material can be common sense, and trainees get frustrated sitting through material they already know. This is another reason trainees disengage with training, and they won’t pay attention to new concepts and information they need to know.

Instead, when designing a course, one tip tip to avoid this is to first insert an assessment that determines if participants already understand the learning objective. If they do, make it quick and easy way to for them to move through this part of the training to keep them engaged.

udutu course authoring

For example, if you start out by determining eight learning objectives and eight ways to measure understanding, you could use the objectives to screen trainees:

  • Some know all of the objectives and move to the next module
  • Some know only some of the objectives and focus on remediation
  • Some know none of the objectives and learn all of the objectives

Participants who already demonstrate mastery of some learning objectives can progress, while remedial exercises will help the others who are unfamiliar with the content.

This is an efficient way to plan your online training, while making sure your trainees remain engaged and learn what you need them to.


Creating engaging online training is quite challenging for most trainers, especially in an era of shorter attention spans. However, by “beginning with the end in mind” and clearly articulating measurable learning objectives at the start of the process, you’ll enjoy more success with your training.

As always, if you have any questions about course authoring and creating effective elearning content, don’t hesitate to contact the team at Udutu.

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