Bite-sized learning: How micro-courses are helping companies engage employees better

This model of e-learning distributed in snippets that are simple, easy to digest, and pertain to a specialised topic, are in line with the modern learner's mindset

Updated: Mar 7, 2019 11:17:41 AM UTC
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Less is the new more. Shorter may be better when it comes to learning.

Five to eight seconds–-that is the time an individual takes to decide to either stay on a piece of content or move elsewhere. Many will link the declining attention spans to the tech-heavy nurturing of Gen Y, but the shifting inclination for bite-sized learning or micro-learning over deep-focus activities isn’t earmarked just for the young. It’s a by-product of the modern technological world, and is trending across the globe.

What is bite-sized learning?
It is e-learning distributed in snippets that are simple, easy to digest, and pertain to a specialised topic. For instance, a three-minute training video or a short learning module accessible via mobile. The goal is to prevent information overload and learning fatigue.

A Deloitte research on the modern learner suggests that an average employee can only give one per cent of the work week to their professional development. For a forty-hour work week, it translates to twenty four minutes a week or 4.8 minutes in an eight-hour day.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the key reasons for this trend:

Better retention
There’s no question that bite-sized content can easily be understood, remembered and digested better. George Miller, the American cognitive psychologist suggests in his Information Process Theory that a learner’s short-term memory and attention span can only process information in chunks. Breaking up content into crisp controllable sections, rather than simply piling never-ending chains of text is always effective. This way, learning easily integrates with long-term memory, and can be put to use in daily tasks when required.

Keep it short, but substantial 
According to the Dale Carnegie whitepaper on Employee Engagement, at least 66 percent of today's employees are partly engaged. More importantly, engagement levels with experienced middle managers are very low. When we offer the audience short, light, yet substantial content, they are better engaged with their learning process. Millennial learners prefer bite-sized modules over courses that run to 30 minutes and more.

Leads to better business results
For many organisations, bite-sized learning is also about receiving maximum benefits from minimal input.

This methodology puts the Pareto [80/20] principle in action. It is primarily the 20 percent that is responsible for 80 percent of positive learning outcomes. Learning architect Ray Jimenez says that it takes 300 percent less time and 50 percent less cost to create micro-learning modules than traditional e-learning courses. These modules help save upon instructor’s time, buying or renting physical classrooms, utilities, equipment and miscellaneous similar elements.

Delivers ‘just-in-time’ knowledge
When bite-sized learning is easily accessible, via a smart-phone, for instance, employees can adopt it for just-in-time training, whenever need be. Contextual learning also augments an employee’s retention span, and serves a much higher grade of value and relevancy.

Keeps employees current
On-demand bite-sized learning also means employees can stay current with the latest industry trends, organisational products and processes, as well as technological advancements. Course material ensures that training evolves in parallel with the pace of business and marketplace change.

Compatible with modern learner’s mindset
Unlike the traditional approach, bite-sized learning suits the modern learner's information-rich lifestyle and syncs with their ‘tell me quickly’ mindset. The flexibility of accessing capsules of information at their fingertips, anytime and anywhere, makes the grasping easy and effective.

Is bite-sized learning model right for everything?
Though it can be a valuable tool for employers to connect and engage with the modern corporate learner, it isn’t the ultimate approach for all learning areas. Topics that are complex or need precision are befitting to deep learning tactics.

For instance, you would probably not like to fly with a pilot who has been trained only in micro-bursts. You would prefer someone who has undergone some extended training sessions, whether real or simulated.

Organisations are gradually moving away from conventional learning curriculum and embracing bite sized learning as it draws on the cognitive framework built on humans' natural attention. Several micro-learning assets such as videos, infographics, games, mobile apps or whiteboard animations are all intended to meet the directives of application, knowledge acquisition and behavioural change.

The need for bite sized or micro-learning is apposite to the rise of employee-centric corporate cultures. Cultures that identify the numerous demands placed on employees’ time and energy. Making crisp learning programmes that serve the needs of workforces is a critical step in this course, and in today’s digital world, it means slimmer content.

The author is a Chairperson & Managing Director of Dale Carnegie of India.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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