While conducting interviews and editing a few weeks ago, two sources shared that e-learners, or those who are involved in online training, want their information in five-minute sections or less. Twice in one week does not a trend make, but it does inspire some concern. As a former educator and lifelong learner, it startled me to think that online training is devolving to nothing more than a YouTube snippet or a Snapchat story. Originally, online learning was seemingly intended for convenience and increased access since continuing education was required to stay certified. It helped mitigate costs, removed physical constraints, and provided the ability to work a full-time job and still be educated after hours. It wasn’t meant to be the educational equivalent of gourmet Ramen noodles.

I’d blame the millennials, since they seem to be the soft target when it comes to all things distracted. But according to BlueVolt, in cooperation with market research firm Cascade Insights, 90 percent of workers in their 20s to late 60s want online training courses, such as product training, in chunks of five minutes or less.

The 60-year-olds? Et tu, Brute?

Not only does the survey show that smaller chunks are desired, but it also shows that 50 percent of workers in their early 20s to mid-40s also want interactive online training content.

They don’t just want to watch; they want to push buttons and work through the presentation interactively. Arguably, there is nothing inherently wrong with video and interactive training on a whole, but the amount of time invested could be the deal breaker when it comes to the effectiveness of online education.



“What can you do in five minutes?” I Googled it. (Go ahead and give it a try; when you’re done laughing, come back and read the rest.) Allegedly, there is a lot to be accomplished in five minutes, but what I noticed from the many examples was that the tasks didn’t have much of a strong initial impact or lasting effect for the doer.

Sure, there is the ability to learn something in five minutes, but is it quality information that will be retained, or is it another tweet in the vast knowledge overload that our culture experiences daily?

In full disclosure, I have watched many a YouTube video to learn how to do some home improvement project or replace the muffler on my old car — #shouldhavecalledthepros. What I learned is that I can do a whole lot of good and a whole lot of damage after learning some facts but foregoing the full understanding of what I am doing. Those five minutes of information I watched multiple times wasn’t enough to get the job done right. There was no context, and my new muffler fell off in the driveway. True story.

Context and system understanding is a concern in an industry where there are daily challenges with refrigerants, pressurized systems, electrical systems, building management system networks, and more. Near the end of a 45-minute interview with Ron Bernstein, CEO and executive director of LonMark® Intl., he told me that there is a lot of online training being created and that he had been asked to fit the complex pieces of the discussion we had just finished into several five-minute-or-less videos. I laughed, thinking it was a joke. I was wrong.

Education is no laughing matter. There needs to be a line between quality and the ability to attract and retain e-learners. If that means there needs to be more time on the job for training, then so be it. If it needs to be two products, one for quick reference and one for online education, then let’s do that. The intricacies of HVACR don’t come with a quick fix, and neither should the online training that the industry provides.

Publication date: 3/25/2019

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