eLearning: A 30-Second Strategy For Student And Instructor Productivity

A 30-Second Strategy For Improving Student And Instructor Productivity

Even as much as new technology in delivery and consumption has made this educational platform much more effective and satisfying, student and instructor productivity can suffer. Students are trying to absorb content and skills and can begin to lose the “forest for the trees”. Instructors, in their efforts to plan and deliver the best possible curriculum, can get bogged down and distracted, losing valuable production time. Here are some tips for improving student and instructor productivity:

For Students

Probably the biggest issue for students is this: There is a great deal of content presented, and they become overwhelmed. As well, they are attempting to absorb and commit lots of detail so that they are able to pass any exams, participate in discussions that may follow, and have the necessary information for project work that may be assigned. In all of this flurry of learning, they often miss the larger picture – the overall conceptual framework of what they are learning.

To avoid this, students should take time at the end of each session –lecture, podcast, video, discussion– to develop a summary of that session. Sometimes this is called the 30-second summary. This is developed by asking – what were the big points of this lesson or session? What was the overall concept? Taking 30 seconds to think about this and to write it down has some major benefits.

  1. Remember, this is not note-taking.
    Students should not go through their notes and try to reduce them for a summary. The point of this exercise is to sit back, relax, and interpret what was just taught/learned and to prioritize that learning.
  2. It’s not easy, but it is important.
    Years from now, students will not remember all of the details of what they learned through coursework. However, if they take the time to complete the 30-second activity, they will remember the big takeaways.
  3. It helps to eliminate the irrelevant.
    Taking time to get that summary in writing allows students to focus on the big picture and eliminate detail that, in fact, may not be critical to concept mastery.
  4. Do it right away.
    Waiting any length of time will mean that students can lose that big picture they want. They may remember details but not the big ideas.
  5. Training for focus.
    One of the great benefits of this exercise is that student will learn to watch for the big ideas and concepts in future sessions. They will focus more, ask good questions, and their 30-second review will become much more meaningful.

If students will practice doing this after every lesson, no matter what the presentation, they will get better at it over time. It will be a skill that they will use throughout their lives.


Planning and delivering eLearning instruction presents unique challenges for instructors. However, if they will adopt the 30-second “rule” as they prepare their coursework, they will find great benefit too.

  1. Take 30 seconds in the beginning.
    Sit back for 30 seconds and think about the big picture of the course that is being planned. Then write down the major focus of the course. Doing this can drive all decision-making as the course is developed.
  2. Remove distractions.
    As courses are planned, instructors can often veer off-course in their unit and lesson planning. They can add content that may be important to them personally but that may not be a part of that major focus that was developed.
  3. Refining goals and objectives.
    Every course goal and objective should directly relate to that major focus. Once goals and objectives are identified, they should be evaluated against that focus and revised or thrown out accordingly.
  4. Promulgation of focuses in course descriptions.
    The great thing about taking that 30-second summary time is that it allows an instructor to very clearly write an honest course description, so that students know up front exactly what they can expect to learn.

Instructors will find that this little habit will actually increase productivity. If all that goes into course planning is subjected to the relevancy test up front, then the need for revising later on is eliminated. A great time saver!