Want to make more money in your business?
Then start selling better online courses and programs.
As marketers we talk a lot about the need to understand your target prospect and what makes them tick. It’s important if you want to maximize your conversions and get more sales by attracting the right prospects.
But it’s only half the battle.
You also need to understand how people learn and retain information, and the best ways to engage them.
When you do all of that properly, people get excited about your training programs… they share your programs with others… and they buy more of your products and services.
Consequently, you make a lot more money in the long run.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen lots of online programs from well-known experts who couldn’t teach their way out of a wet paper bag.
They may get a lot of sales for awhile through sheer willpower and brute force selling, but in terms of the long-term prospects for their business… forget it.
The market will eventually find them out, and the sales will dry up.
So as much as I’m a student of marketing, I’m also a student of learning and online education …
The online learning marketplace is rapidly growing and evolving, with more and more opportunities to position yourself as an expert than ever before.
But there’s a growing problem in the industry.
On the one hand, the internet is wide open with opportunity.
On the other hand, that means anyone can throw together an online course… put up a website in a few hours, for just a few dollars… and be in business.
And that means there are a lot of people positioning themselves as experts, in all sorts of subjects, who don’t know how people learn and how to best package their expertise.
So it’s a double-edged sword in that it’s also creating an opportunity for people to create really bad online training courses. And programs that are not impacting people at all, merely watering down the quality of online education.
In effect, it’s giving everybody who’s selling online a bad name.
A great book on this topic is “Leading the Learning Revolution: The Expert’s Guide to Capitalizing On the Exploding Lifelong Education Market” by Jeff Cobb.
As Jeff writes in his book:
“An emphasis on how people learn is not just a matter of educational practice: I believe it will become fundamental to attracting and retaining customers for learning products.
“The volume of information and ‘junk’ learning experiences available in the aftermath of the web explosion is simply overwhelming.
“While it may always be possible to hook people with shiny objects and deceptive promises, it will become increasingly hard to sustain and grow an educational business if you are not delivering clear returns on the learner’s investment.”
Long story short, the future of your business as an information publisher is going to increasingly depend upon the quality of the learning experience that you create for your clients and customers. Not simply the information that you create and sell.
If you’re going to create “junk” training programs and learning experiences, don’t expect to stay in business for very long.
So what does all this have to do with multitasking?
One of the worst problems I see today with online courses is a “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” approach to conveying information.
It’s disjointed, it lacks any semblage of focus, and it attempts to convey too much information too quickly. All in an effort to overwhelm the learner with so much “value” that they immediately become raving fans.
Unfortunately, it’s more often completely the opposite.
There’s so much input coming at them so quickly that it quite literally overloads the circuits of the brain, leaving the learner confused, frustrated, and discouraged.
When that happens, the brain simply shuts down.
This is a lot like what happens when you try to multitask.
A lot of people brag about their ability to multitask, almost wearing it on their sleeve as if it were a badge of honor.
But research has shown again and again that the human mind wasn’t designed to multitask. In fact, the very act of trying to do so has negative long-term effects on the functioning of your brain.
A 2009 study by Stanford researcher Clifford Nass challenged 262 college students to complete a variety of experiments that involved filtering irrelevant information, switching among tasks, and using working memory.
Expecting to find multitaskers outperforming non-multitaskers, they were shocked to discover much the opposite.
Not only were multitaskers less effective when multitasking, that loss of effectiveness spilled over into other areas. It even left them less effective when they were focusing on a single activity, and weren’t trying to multitask at all.
In other words, when we try to multitask we tend not to do things so well and we make a lot more mistakes in the process.
And those effects are long term, not just in the moment.
Trying to throw too much at your learner, too fast, is a lot like asking them to multitask.
If you’ve ever been to a Cirque du Soleil show, especially the “O” show in Las Vegas, you’ll understand what a fool’s errand this is.
The “O” show is designed to completely overwhelm the senses.
There’s so many disparate activities going on at one time, in so many different areas of the show, that it’s impossible to absorb everything that’s happening.
So when you emerge from the “O” show and someone asks, “what was your favorite part?” It’s like, “man I don’t know, my head is still spinning from all the things I was trying to pay attention to!”
You could watch the show a dozen times and feel like you watched a dozen different shows. It’s complete overstimulation.
Of course, this is precisely the effect you want when it comes to entertainment. But it’s the last thing you want when it comes to learning.
Yet many of us ask our customers to do just that with our online training programs.
We present them with an experience that’s disjointed and overwhelming. Consequently, they shut down and turn off, and one of two things happens:
- They ask for a refund and you never hear from them again.
- They fail to follow through and you never hear from them again.
Either way, you’re out potential referrals, repeat business, and a whole lot of profits.
So what can we do about this?
Practice the fine art of “microlearning” …
Microlearning means to deliver content to learners in a logical, step-by-step fashion, and in smaller, specific bursts.
Another word for it is chunking. In psychology or linguistic analysis, chunking refers to the act of grouping together connected items, words or thoughts so that they can be stored or processed as single concepts.
TED Talks are a great example of microlearning. When someone delivers a TED Talk, it’s generally in the range of 10 to 15 minutes long.
In fact, the people at TED Talk have an 18-minute rule. You can be Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Anthony Robbins – it doesn’t matter.
You’ve got a maximum of 18 minutes to spit out what you want to say.
The people behind the TED Talk discovered that 18 minutes is long enough to be serious, yet short enough to hold attention. Most importantly, it’s short enough to be memorable.
You absorb and remember more, because it’s delivered in smaller, bite-sized chunks.
Studies show that students zone out after about 15-20 minutes in a lecture. Beyond that, our brains go into what’s known as cognitive overload, and absorption and retention rates crash rapidly.
So food for thought …
Should we, as information publishers, be building our online courses and training programs in TED Talk-sized chunks?
Are we making a mistake expecting the learner to pause our videos every 12-18 minutes to take a break? Should we be forcing them to do it by purposely designing our trainings that way? If we’ve got a 2-hour long training video, should we be breaking it into seven to ten 12-18 minute videos?
Should we be delivering it in a drip sequence, rather than all at once?
Should we be making the content available on a predetermined schedule, a little bit at a time, rather than making it all available at once? Maybe even requiring the learner to pass a test before moving from one “chunk” to the next?
Can we control the learning experience in a way that helps prevent cognitive overload?
Will that make customers happy?
Picture yourself logging in to the dashboard and getting completely overwhelmed by dozens of videos, audios, PDFs, and more.
Now imagine a linear track, start here, go there, one step at time.
Which do you prefer?
Let us know in the comments below…
Until next time!