Ephemeral content in learning


“E-phem-what??” is something I imagine many reading this are currently thinking. If I’m being honest, it’s a word that I have only just discovered myself. So what does it mean?


We live in a World where social media drives our lives and ephemeral content is something that is short lived and after that it disappears forever.


Think Snapchat – the photo and video application with over 10 billion views every day and no content lasting more than 24 hours. Because of that deadline, there is the urgency to see it and share it before it is gone forever.


The buzz of this deadline means that there is the distinct possibility of FOMO – the fear of missing out. In a social sense, content originators and marketers can use this to their benefit. Campaigns can be created with a very short shelf life and people engage with that content more readily due to the fear that they will no longer be able to see it once it disappears in a matter of hours.


From a Learning & Development perspective, ephemeral content flies in the face of many of the principles of learning, but the engagement and urgency factors may provide benefits.


How might that work practically? Imagine you ran a training course tomorrow on a topic of particular relevance to your learners and asked them to sign up less than 24 hours in advance and told them there were no handouts or materials to take away. Do you think they may come with a slightly more alert mind-set and ensure that they actively listen?


What if that webinar wasn’t recorded or that e-learning module was only available for a week and then it couldn’t be accessed ever again. Would it change the learner’s perspective and make them more attentive? Does the craze for on-demand learning make people lazier?


Ephemeral isn’t a new concept, in the days before the Internet, photocopiers and binding machines the content that came from the trainer or facilitator had to be more readily taken in at that moment in time because there simply wasn’t the facilities to record or document it. By actively restricting the availability of resources you make them more sought after.


When we work with clients to provide access to e-learning we often get asked what is the optimal period of time to give someone to access a module. If this is too long, such as 3 months or more, then people will get lazy. If it’s too short then we’ll get too many requests for extensions. If we were to follow the trend of ephemeral then the answer is 24 hours and if you miss it then tough luck – an interesting thought!


Creating programmes in this way isn’t always the answer. You have to ensure whatever solution you put in place is right for the audience, but it’s always good to consider new concepts to ensure that training delivers in an impactful way. With over 20 years of experience in creating engaging learning solutions, the team at Maguire can offer advice to exceed the needs of your learners. Whether that’s a high level leadership programme, some account management coaching or you want to run a Train the Trainer sessions, we can help to ensure these have the required impact.

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