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Think Small: 8 Commandments of Bite-Sized Learning


According to a survey carried out by the Rapid Learning Institute, a whopping 94 percent of the Learning & Development professionals who took part in the study said that their learners preferred bite-sized learning modules to eLearning courses that run to 30 minutes and more. They have their reasons.

But are you surprised by this piece of statistic?

Millennial learners have only so much time to put across his views in 140 characters. They prefer to know the gist of a story from a one-line update than read pages about it. They demand that information is made accessible to them on the go. So it is not surprising that they also want learning to be delivered to them the way they are used to consume other types of information—in bite-sized chunks at their own “place and pace.”

You can’t stay away from microlearning if you want to stay on the minds of your learners. But before you create a microlearning module, here is a disclaimer:

“A bite-sized learning module is NOT just a short course.”  Tweet this

The following are the principles of bite-sized learning:


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Commandment #1: Stick to One Idea

Don’t dump content on your learners.

An eLearning course that runs for 30 minutes can fulfill multiple learning objectives. But your teeny-weeny bite-sized module should address only one learning objective.

The objective of a bite-sized learning module is no different than a Google search because the learner approaches it with the same expectation: to find a solution to a single problem just when he needs it. Note the word single.

The average learner thinks in thin slices—he wants to resolve one problem before he moves on to the next. So make sure that you give him ONE concept to digest and induce ONE change in behavior or attitude to fulfill ONE learning objective.

Commandment #2: Engage

You had me at hello. Remember this line from Jerry Maguire?

You can also bore a person and send him scurrying for cover at hello. Things are no different in microlearning.

Engage your audience right from the start and keep at it till the end of the module. Just because the module is short is no guarantee that the learners will stay with you through boring content and lackluster presentation. 

Commandment #3: Keep it Fluff-free & Lean

What do you do first when you downsize your living space? You throw out all the inessentials.

You have to apply the same principle when you create a bite-sized learning module. You have to banish the fluff (nice-to-know information) and retain only what is relevant.

Here are some tips:

  • Cut to the chase. Do away with the history, the background information, and the theories. Deliver the “how-to” right away. Remember, your learners are looking for just-in-time solutions.
  • Be direct. Do not try to deliver learning in the traditional eLearning format where every course has an introduction, a descriptive section, conclusion, and assignments.
  • Use a variety of media to present content crisply. Remember, an image is worth a thousand words. One video clip that demonstrates a procedure can replace several images, each showing a single step.

Here are some more tips on how to create lean learning modules.

Commandment #4: Chunk Smart

Read the two lists given below just once:

Apples, pears, bananas, blueberries, peaches …

Blueberries, ribbons, Mercedes, Steve Jobs, asteroids …

Which list are you likely to remember more easily? Definitely, the list of fruits. That’s because it is easy to remember similar and relevant information that is grouped together. The underlying connection between various chunks of information aids retention and reduces cognitive load.

Chunk content smartly to create a harmonious bite-sized learning module. Here’s how you should go about the chunking process:

  • Determine the ONE learning outcome you wish to achieve.
  • Determine the tasks that are related to this ONE goal.
  • Identify content that is relevant to this ONE learning goal.
  • Arrange the content into nuggets.
  • Add knowledge checks that test learners for knowledge and skills they are expected to demonstrate in practice.

Commandment #5: Honor Context

“If content is the King, then context is no less a royalty.”

Remember that Google search analogy? Your learners expect you to provide solutions to their real-world problems just when they need it.

As eLearning designers, your job is not to present information that your learners have no use for. You can provide value and keep audiences engaged ONLY by providing relevant content. Keep these tips in mind:

  • State clearly at the start what learners will be able to DO after they have taken the module.
  • Pepper your module with SOLUTIONS. Show the learners how they can solve their real problems.
  • Frame knowledge checks so that these test learners for knowledge and skills that they will actually have to apply when they go back to their workplaces.

Commandment #6: Space-out the Learning

To manage and reduce cognitive load, you have to let learners digest the information you have provided, reflect on the learning, and apply the knowledge and skills they have learned before they move on to take another bite-sized module.

You may deliver information in nuggets, or the modules may be only 5-minutes long. But they still have to be processed by the brain. You have to space out the learning to cement it in the minds of the learners and make it more effective.

Think of it in this way: how much of the information that you cram in on the night before the test do you remember afterward?

Commandment #7: Create a User-friendly Design

Your learner does not have all the time in the world. He or she is also more likely to access the learning modules on a mobile device. So make it easy for them to find what they are looking for with user-friendly search features and designs that minimize load times.

Commandment #8: Learner-driven and personalized

To figure out how to woo your learners and hook them, think like them. Then make them feel special by giving them exactly what they want. Here are some tips to help you deliver what the learner needs:

  • Give learners the freedom to define the “place and pace” of the learning.
  • Create a design and put in place a technological framework that lets learners explore, find, and “pull” the solutions towards them instead of you thrusting (pushing) the learning down their throats. For instance, allow learners to skip learning modules that they don’t want to take. Here are some more tips on creating an effective microlearning design strategy.
  • Deconstruct and modularize. Forget the linear way of imparting teach as you would do for eLearning courses of longer durations. Microlearning demands that you let learners choose their own path according to their needs and at their own pace and time.

 


Microlearning gives you the opportunity to reach out to your learners wherever they may be and provide solutions to them in a way they can digest, process, and apply. By delivering learning in bite-sized modules, you speak to the Millennial learner in the language he understands.

writing tips for elearning


REFERENCES: Mind Gym. Bite-sized Learning Revolution.

Karla Gutierrez

Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT. ES:Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

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