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Author's profile photo Max Wessel

How to Give Learning the Attention It Deserves

 

Our attention spans are shorter than ever before.

We’ve become so addicted to our phones that we spend an average of 2.5 hours on social media every day, often in short spurts and on the go. We retweet while waiting in line for coffee, watch TikToks on the bus to work, and scroll through Instagram at lunch.

Few have been successful at breaking through the distractions. Peloton is an exception to the rule – they’ve been able to tap into the psychology of our rewired brains by creating a fitness system that is incredibly easy to use at home and on the go. The classes are led by instructors as engaging as they are qualified, who have built a community around virtual high fives, common-interest groups, and achievement badges. Workouts range in length from 5 to 90 minutes so that users can fit in a sweat when and where it works best for them.

As Chief Learning Officer of SAP, I know we need to embrace this mindset if we’re to compete for the attention of our learners. We can’t be stuck in an old paradigm and assume that people are willing to spend hours taking traditional courses. Instead, we must meet our learners where they are.

The time is now. As digital transformation accelerates, 1 billion workers will need to be reskilled or trained (World Economic Forum). On average, a job goes unfilled for more than 40 days because the required skills are not readily available (Deloitte). We know this is an impending issue, but that’s not enough. We need a solution that recognizes that we’re competing with Netflix, Facebook, and every other drain on human attention. We must offer learning experiences that are delightful, modern, and fit into the lives of our learners.

Learning needs to be mobile first

We do so much from the screens of our mobile devices – from banking and telemedicine to ordering groceries and booking travel. Learning should also be available at our fingertips.

Consider sales professionals or consultants, whose work is rarely tethered to a traditional office. They need to learn through short, engaging modules can be clicked through while waiting at an airport gate or in between zoom calls. They can’t take days off work to sit in a classroom, even virtually.

Consumer apps have raised the bar for a mobile learning experience that meets these standards. Duolingo offers language courses at the touch of a button, Khan Academy has long been the gold standard of video-based homework help, and Quantic has made it possible to take MBA-level courses from your phone. As we build out SAP’s new learning site, learning.sap.com, we’re doing so with the mobile user experience top of mind to ensure that everyone in our ecosystem can learn about SAP products from their phones, wherever they are.

Learning needs to be hands on

Technology is moving faster than learning, with new functions often added more quickly than a training can be updated. To keep up with this pace of innovation, sometimes the best learning is done through embedded, hands-on development environments where a user can deploy a lab and start tinkering quickly.

That’s why we offer SAP Discovery Center and Booster Packs, with mission-based learning to help users get up and running on the SAP Business Technology Platform. Through guided journeys and practical use cases, our users can learn how to accelerate innovations on BTP—all in the flow of their daily work.

Learning isn’t one size fits all

Time is one of our most valuable resources. In fact, over the past year the amount of time we spend working has increased. How can we be expected to fit learning into our already demanding schedules?

It’s no surprise then that there is clear interest from our ecosystem on faster time to insight. People have come to the SAP Community to ask questions more than 1 million times, often receiving responses in just a couple of hours. We’ve also seen growing traffic to OpenSAP Microlearning, with focused trainings to help the learner understand one concept, or solve one problem, in a short period of time.

This doesn’t replace the need to go deep on a topic, or the value of building a workplace learning culture where training doesn’t always have to feel rushed. But if we’re going to keep the attention of our learners, the more insight we can pack into bite-sized modules, the better.

***

In a world of distractions, we can’t expect our users to dedicate as much time on learning as in the past. But that doesn’t mean we will stop learning; we just must make sure learning better and more efficient. We all deserve learning that fits into our work-life flow, is up-to-date and modern, and gives us the skills we need to be successful – so that we can spend more time innovating and less time in the classroom.

 

Follow the Training topic on the SAP Community to stay tuned to innovations in this area.

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