Avoid Information Overload In Your Information Security & Privacy Training!

I’ve been reviewing some “canned” information security and privacy training offerings in the past few months, and I’m seeing that many of them are trying to dump TOO MUCH information on those taking them; learners can only absorb so much information within a short period of time and retain it for any significant amount of time!

Think about trying to fill a pint jar with a gallon of liquid…most of it will just overflow and be wasted. The same is true with providing training content.
To make your training sessions as effective as possible, provide 5 – 9 (or, better yet, 4 – 7) key learning points and don’t give your learners information overload fatigue. You want your learners to be excited about what they learned, not feel worn out and ready to hit a bar to numb their aching brain.
Give several short training sessions multiple times per year instead of trying to cram all the information security and privacy information you want your personnel to have into one mega session only once (or less) a year…it will NOT be as effective to do these long marathon information dumping sessions.
Here’s an short excerpt from my book “Managing an Information Security and Privacy Awareness and Training Program” that addresses this topic.

Organizations often try to dump a huge amount of information into a learner’s brain in a short period. Too many try to tell all there is to know about privacy and/or information security during a single one-hour training session. Many studies indicate, however, that people can comprehend, and remember, only five to nine items of information at any one time.3 I’ve found the limit in the classes I’ve taught to be seven specific pieces of information.
In addition, if you cover too much material at once, learners might feel as though they are having massive amounts of material unrealistically piled on them. This will likely make learners resentful and not want to learn. Break up training and awareness messages and sessions into sizes that can be successfully absorbed. Instead of giving one huge training session for one to two hours each year, give a 10-minute training session every quarter or every other month. It is more effective in the long run.

Of course, there is much more within the book.
BTW, I’m working on the 2nd edition of this book to be published either late 2009 or early 2010. If you have any suggestions for updates or additions, please let me know! 🙂

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