RLI survey: Bite-size learning is hot at ASTD Conference, but execution is lagging back on the home front

Preliminary results from a Rapid Learning Institute (RLI) survey at the 2014 ASTD Conference and Expo point to a big gap between what e-learners want and what they’re getting. The good news is that organizations are planning investments to close that gap.

Finding #1: Shorter is better, but still in short supply

RLI’s State of Workplace e-Learning Survey polled learning professionals attending ASTD. While most respondents said that learners prefer short form e-learning, they indicated that their organizations are lagging when it comes to offering short modules. Specifically:


  • 94% said that e-learners prefer short form modules (10 minutes or less) for soft-skills training.
  • 65% said that the typical e-learning module presents too much information.

Yet when asked about their own organization’s e-learning offerings, attendees indicated that long modules still dominate:


  • 50% of respondents said the bulk of their libraries consisted of long form modules.
  • Only 12% said that most of their modules were short form.

Learning professionals’ preference for short e-learning is in line with current research, which suggests that lengthy e-learning modules create cognitive overload, a contributing factor in e-learning’s history of low engagement and utilization. Yet while acknowledging the benefits of short form e-learning, these learning professionals are faced with the challenge of converting or replacing their legacy libraries of long-form content.

Finding #2: Manager involvement isn’t where it should be

The survey results also pointed to a lag in the involvement of managers in the training function:

  • 16% of respondents were “very” or “mostly” satisfied with the level of manager involvement.
  • 46% were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with manager involvement.

Earlier research from RLI has identified a link between short-form e-learning and manager engagement. Short e-learning modules make it easier for managers to train their people and create “small victories” that encourage managers to stay engaged in training.

Finding #3: Investments in technology and mobile learning are expected to rise

Respondents indicated that their organizations plan to invest more in technology-based learning, and specifically mobile learning, in the next two years:

  • 70% of companies said they plan to spend more on technology-based learning next year
  • 6% said they plan to spend less

Regarding mobile learning:

  • 25% said that their organizations already offer m-learning
  • 61% said they plan to implement m-learning in the next two years
  • 3% said they plan to implement m-learning in the next three to five years
  • 11% said they had no plans to implement m-learning

Limitations and future research directions

With a sample size of 43, RLI considers these early results directional and not definitive, and plans to survey more learning professionals to validate the findings. A key question going forward is whether organizations that use short-form modules report greater manager involvement than those using long-form modules.


Rapid Learning Institute (RLI) provides online training and talent development tools for businesses, government agencies, nonprofits and educational institutions in the areas of sales, leadership and management, human resources, employment law compliance, and workplace safety. RLI’s approach is founded on three core principles: 1) Rapid Learning. Workplace training should be delivered in short bursts – just six to 10 minutes at a time. Today’s multi-tasking workforce has neither the time nor the attention span for traditional lengthy training formats. 2) Single-Concept Learning. People learn best when training is focused on a narrow concept where learning goals are clearly defined. When training is delivered in small packets, the brain can easily absorb, remember and apply what it learns. 3) Research-Based Learning. Training is most powerful when it’s grounded in verifiable research. When learners see training as credible, they’re more likely to translate the learning into on-the-job behavior. RLI’s signature six to 10 minute modules, called Quick Takes, incorporate these three ideas into unique training programs that get results.

Based in Greater Philadelphia, RLI is an operating division of Business 21 Publishing.

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