The best time to learn something is right before you need it. This is exactly the opposite of how many training programs work.
Often and employee learns about a subject or topic in January with hopes that they will recall that information in June. The ideal learning event is quick and timely.
Today employees want to find the answer and quickly move on. In fact one executive’s described the ideal learning event as occurring within five to ten minutes of realizing the need, customized to the situation, and providing just the right “trick” or insight needed to perform a specific task. Learning embedded in the workflow.
The goal is the reduction of learning to its smallest, most-useful increments–sometimes called “micro-learning.” Put the learner in charge of the entire process. A good example of this is Lynda.com which has small (less than five minute) segments of information to teach people how to perform a variety of tasks. As does the free YouTube with extensive how-to videos.
Smaller learning chunks are being put into place in many organizations. One such example is Novartis.
Novartis is a healthcare firm, working in the areas of pharmaceuticals, consumer health, generics, eye-care, and animal health. The learning team at Novartis has created a series of 8-10 minute modules to provide their sales representatives with just the right knowledge at just the right time.
One of the uses of this approach is to help sales representatives interpret graphs contained within clinical studies. Often the graphs are rich with information but difficult to explain and understand with out some training assistance. The training and development team at Novartis creates modules of no more than seven or eight screens complete with a quiz to provide instruction and assessment of the 10 minute module. The feedback the team receives is positive with nearly 90% of the learners indicating that the 10 minutes of learning was just what they needed.
Cisco has set an upper limit of 20 minutes for their learning chunks. They have found that almost anybody will stay for 10-12 minutes of content, no matter how mediocre it is, and if it’s bad learners start to drop off at 10-12 minutes, and if its really good there is still a significant drop off at 20 minutes. Cisco guidelines are 20 minutes and there are very few things that exceed the 20 minute chunks except for some reading like a white paper, which may take longer.
Whether it’s video or audio, it’s “chunkable” into 20 minutes, even text.
Learning events need to be short, quick, to the point and not necessarily linear. There is little desire among employees to sit through a long classroom session or even long online session to learn one or two pieces of valuable information.
Nor do they want to go through information sequentially just because that is the way it is organized.
Start thinking about the ideal learning event and how you can craft it to meet learner needs.
This information paraphrased from my work, Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: Tools and Techniques for Transferring Know-How from Boomers to Gamers