We all know that attention spans are shorter. Signals of this are all around us. We flick through content on our phones at lightning speed, we shorten meetings to 10 minutes and limit what we “tune into” to short bytes of info. A study from Microsoft reveals the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds, a decrease of 25% in just a few years. The effects of this in the business world are far-reaching, perhaps no place more apparent than in the corporate learning environment.

It’s clear learning has taken a new shape in recent years. Learning leaders are now searching for delivery methods that simultaneously engage learners while taking less time to complete. Sounds impossible? Enter the nano-simulation (nano-sim).

From 90 Minutes to 10

​​Christine Murphy, a learning and development (L&D) leader at Deloitte shares, “Nano-sims offer a modern alternative to the traditional eLearning format, significantly reducing seat time and increasing data retention.” Nano-sims is a form of microlearning that presents short, on-demand virtual situations that capture the employee’s attention for five, 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Compare that to a traditional all day, live learning session, or a 90 to 120 minute eLearning program that eats up a lot of an employee’s workday.

Today, people opt for shorter — yet more efficient and effective — training. Nano-sims provide just that. Even before the shift to remote work, data has shown a trend toward employees choosing shorter training methods vs. lengthy videos or webinars. Shorter, more stimulating formats answered the call for more palpable, impactful and timely learning.

A Personalized Learning Journey

Yet, just what do nano-sims bring to the corporate learning table? Immersive learning experts say these intensive, high-impact bits of training have transformed training into powerful — and memorable — learning journeys. Simply put, nano-sims are immersive learning simulations that are generally shorter, more structured and focused on a particular subject matter. What makes them so effective is that they’re all about the learner and are exclusively first person. It’s not about watching a video or listening to someone impart knowledge; it’s about demonstrating what you know — or don’t know — and improving your skills right then and there.

It’s a very personal journey as the learner is the hero of their own story. And it’s personally adaptive as they can change the path of the nano-sim, mid-simulation, depending on “in the moment” choices. It’s all about the learner — their growth and improvement.

Practice, Practice, Practice — Without Judgment

Consider a 15-minute nano-sim with 12 decision points — 12 points that test the learner’s abilities. Each is scored relative to the optimum decision. Coaching feedback is given, allowing the learner to do the nano-sim again — and again — to improve their score and ability. And because it’s a safe space, there’s no judgment; just practice makes perfect.

But make no mistake — nano-sims are not easy. It’s never a yes/no answer. The learner has to make critical decisions in real-life scenarios, and no one answer is wrong.

Agile and Flexible

Industry experts are actively exploring the potential for nano-sims. For instance, one enterprise is creating a series of nano-sims, using the skills data captured within the sim to personalize the learner’s journey, serving up specific knowledge to fill skills gaps identified in the simulation. Some employees are using nano-sims as a skills refresher; they go back to the nano-sim at any time to strengthen their skills. Employees can also tap into them to quickly train on a topic coming up at a meeting. This is considered “learning in the flow of work.”

These short but “sweet” simulations are innately agile and make it easy to pivot, change and modify on demand. One enterprise found their assumption about their workforce gaps in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) skills was incorrect based on immersive learning data. To their surprise, their employees were scoring well on identifying unconscious bias but low on showing allyship — the opposite of their hypothesis before they tested it using simulated scenarios. As a result, they quickly pivoted and directed their nano-sims to address allyship instead.

The Next Small Thing in Learning

Many enterprises are seeking ways to help employees learn at faster rates, with the ability to apply more of what they learn. Nano-sims can answer that demand perfectly, with agility built in for each individual’s quick customization and learning journeys. The payoff? A more capable workforce that translates to reduced risk and increased revenue, which is always good for business.