The more I study formal learning programs (I will leave the study of informal learning programs to Jay), the more I hit the same number. Of any class, real or virtual, lecture or simulation, self-paced or chaperoned, academic or corporate, about 20% of the students have mentally dropped out.
This is not the period "fuzzing out" that we all experience. These people are gone. When asked a question, they don't know what is going on. When asked to perform in a simulation, they can't.
Some of these mental dropouts later give the class great marks. Others trash it.
Some of these mental dropouts are fabulous performers in the organization. Others are looking for new jobs. Some are surly; some are charming.
Most sit in the back of the room if they can. Many cluster together during breaks.
Is this rock-solid research on my part? Absolutely not. Am I sounding like Rumsfeld? A little.
I have just been stunned by the absolute constant of this number. And how the training people always look at this number as their own failure. They are reluctant to talk about it. When I bring it up, the training people always try and justify why the 20% dropped out (oh, 10% had previous engagements...). But across situations, across rationales, the number is almost always the same.
What are the implications of this? I have no idea.