How long have teachers been hearing about the shortening attention spans of students? I'm sure teachers in the 1950s were hearing about that in relation to increased TV viewing. The rise of cable TV and then video recording took that up a few notches. And then came the Internet. And now it is smartphones. All of out attention spans have shortened as the option of things to engage with have increased.
When I first starting designing and teaching online courses around 2000, recorded lectures (mostly on VHS tapes) were the standard 90-minute lecture in length. Some were less than that, but we started hearing that research showed they should be less than 20 minutes and even better at under 10 minutes. That did not go over well with most faculty i worked with on instructional design.
While I was not surprised to read about the idea of the 5 Minute University (5MU) project, I am sure that many faculty in higher ed would still scoff at it. This project is aimed the other way - at the instructors.
It is instructor professional development and intended as an approach for K-12 through higher education. Faculty are as pressed for time as their students and keeping up with the literature or attending an hour or a day at faculty development workshops isn't always practical.
Do they have 5 minutes?
It is compared to movie trailers, giving you enough details to know what the basic premise is but hopefully leaving you wanting more information.
For this project, faculty co-investigators developed 5MU videos about topics related to teaching, learning, and general faculty life. Each presents one topic with a general overview, enough information to get started, and a handout to continue individual development.
This project started as a collaboration between the schools or colleges of pharmacy, health sciences, and medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Northeastern University, the University of Arkansas Medical System, Palm Beach Atlantic University and Pacific University. Their initial target audience was pharmacy and health profession educators, but it would work as well for any field.
Actually, there is no reason why the concept could not also be used in producing 5-minute videos for students as a way to introduce topics. perhaps in an online course, they could introduce the chapter or topic for the week.
This also reminds me of the print introductions offered by EDUCAUSE as "7 Things You Should Know About" which are quick reads on emerging technologies and practices that include potential implications and opportuntities in education.
Here is what one of the 5MU videos looks like.
Here is a page with additional videos and content.