The contemporary workplace places a lot of demands on employees. There’s the long hours, shifting job roles, and the looming threat of automation. That means it’s more important than ever to learn new skills. Unfortunately, those self-same demands mean that it’s more difficult than ever to find time to study. Enter bite-sized learning.
One of the major emerging trends in the employee education space, bite-sized learning, entails breaking down concepts into easily digestible chunks that can be absorbed within a matter of minutes.
It may sound faddy, but it could end up playing a really important role in the future of online education. Here’s why.
About that time thing…
We really cannot overstate how important it is that employee education not be a major time-suck. If workers have no time for exercise, or even for the jobs they were hired to do, what makes you think they’ve got a gap for an intensive course a couple of times a week?
Break up the lessons into five to 10 minute chunks though, and they’ll probably be a lot more receptive.
It fits with people’s attention spans
While measurements of attention spans vary, it’s generally agreed that healthy adults have the ability to concentrate on one thing for about 20 minutes at a time. Sure, you can ask for more than that and, if people really want to, they will re-focus. That’s a big bet to take though.
Keep things short and people are more likely to stay engaged with the content you’re trying to impart to them.
It’s perfect for mobile
While bite-sized learning can occur in a variety of settings, its natural home is on the mobile phone. Think about it, it’s the device people are most likely to always have on them and also the one they spend the most time on (one study suggests that the average person touches their phone more than 2 500 times a day).
As addicted as we are to our phones, however, you’ve got to be pretty damn special if you’re going to keep someone’s attention for more than a few minutes at a time.
That said, if you’re able to push through a valuable concept while someone’s waiting for a train, or in line at the bank, then you’ve probably got a winner on your hands.
It may be how we actually learn best
Given the way traditional education systems are structured, it might surprise you to discover that they don’t really suit how we learn things.
In his book, Understanding Occupational & Organizational Psychology, Lynne Millward writes that information is more likely to be meaningfully absorbed when it is presented in chunks. That is, our brains are much better at comprehending small morsels of information than large chunks of data.
It can make learning a habit
One of the simplest forms of bite-sized learning is the “word-of-the day” email. Most people who subscribe to these emails have no incentive to do so, other than self-improvement. Despite that, they still open and read the email every day.
Because bite-sized learning doesn’t ask for major time commitments from people, it’s much easier for it to become habitual.
But bite-sized learning can also latch onto existing habits far more easily than their traditional counterparts.
A good example of this is Buffer’s seven-day social media course. A basic introduction to social networking, it takes the form of a daily email that takes just a couple of minutes to read.
Hitting the limits
Despite all those advantages, it is important to note that there are limits to bite-sized learning. It can, for instance, be extremely individualistic. That’s not great if you want your whole team to learn a new concept or way of doing things.
It’s also important to remember that there are some things where deep-learning is more suitable.
“There are still advantages to concentrated, longer-lasting training events,” Gregg Collins, senior vice president of design for NIIT told HR Today. “For example, you probably don’t want to fly with a pilot who has only done aviation training in micro-bursts. At some point you’d like to know that she has worked through some extended training sessions, whether simulated or real. You probably wouldn’t enjoy trying to learn to play a Beethoven sonata in three-minute bursts either. Sometimes the complexity of what you are training people to do requires more time.”
So, while bite-sized learning is incredibly valuable for employee education, it’s vital to remember that it won’t replace all other forms of learning.