One of the common obstacles Instructional Designers of today face is that “seat time” in training has been slashed—so learners have to complete courses at a highly efficient pace. More than ever, leadership wants employees to get training done (and fast) so they can get right to work.

Reasons for Limited Seat Time in Training

Why is  training seat time so limited today?

Business owners and organization leaders know that training is important, but it often isn’t an immediate revenue-producing activity. And even though it pays to train employees in the long run, business want their employees to be out making sales and growing profits right now—not sitting in the training seat.

All too often management views training as an obstacle; they want the benefits of the training without the cost of putting people through it. For this reason we need to minimize this barrier as much as we can.

That’s where eLearning comes in.

Training in an eLearning format can be condensed into smaller, more bite-sized pieces of training than can typically be done with live instruction. One great benefit is this information can be absorbed by the learner quickly. At the same time, thanks to eLearning, trainees can still get hands-on experimentation via scenario training.

It makes sense that so many training departments have hopped on board with eLearning—but this does present some unique challenges for the Instructional Designer.

Accommodating Shorter Training Times

So, what does this mean for you as the Instructional Designer?

First of all, you need to design a course that’s efficient. There are various ways you can improve efficiency (but we’ll get to that in a moment.) Once the course is completed, you need to be sure it can be completed within the allotted time frame. And finally, you have to remember to stay dedicated to high-quality learning. Just because the trainee doesn’t have a lot of time doesn’t mean you need to hurry, too.

So let’s start by looking at ways to improve eLearning course efficiency.

Helping Improve Course Efficiency

If you’re struggling to get courses distilled down to a point where they can be completed on time but still have the level of quality that’s necessary, consider the following best practices for improving course efficiency:

-Ensure all objectives are truly necessary. SMEs love to include the kitchen sink, but reduced training times give us the perfect opportunity to trim the fat. Ask the client: How do each of these objectives help your employees do their jobs better? Anything that doesn’t should go.

-Chunk information. Break down video clips into 3-5 minute segments and get rid of material that could be seen as fluff so your learner can walk away with only the most essential material.

-Similar to the last point, set up a Just-In-Time philosophy. Use training as performance support when users need it most.

-Use infographics to illustrate statistics. You can arrange a lot of numbers and facts in a visually appealing way with a great infographic—all in one place.

-Design with cognitive load in mind. Don’t overload learners. Instead, try to simplify, vary content, and build off of existing connections whenever possible.Create pull versus push training – allow trainees to actively get what they need, not passively receive what you think they need.

Once you’ve created a stellar course, you’ll have to be sure the trainee can complete it in the allotted time he or she is given.

Estimating Completion Time

The next question, then, is: How do you estimate how long it will take a learner to complete a course?

If the client wants you working within a very specific completion window, you’ll want to ensure you’re not overloading a course and setting learners up to fail.

You can estimate completion time for a course by:

Factoring in multimedia play times. The length of your audio and video elements will play a big part in your course completion time, so think about run times and consider additional editing if necessary.

-Timing Activity Length. A commonly overlooked time component is the time spent completing activities within your course. Since you designed the activities, it’s not good enough to time yourself flying through all the correct responses. If you plan on your learners thoughtfully progressing through a challenge, you need to approach it as they would. Better yet: Time someone who isn’t familiar with what you put together.

Conducting test runs with a focus group. A simple way to find out how long it takes to finish your course is by getting a group of 5-10 trainees to test it out. From there, you can also spot the places where learners get stuck and burn up precious time.

Bottom line: Don’t be satisfied with a quick run-through. If you really want to impress your client, get your course timed to run like a Swiss watch.

Condense Completion Time—Not Quality

The thing to remember when dealing with limited training seat time is that while you’re condensing material into its simplest form, you shouldn’t sacrifice quality.

You can take measures to produce efficient learning that fits within the client’s required completion time that is still extremely effective—but it means you’ll need to devote some serious thought to the development on your end.