Imagine feeling empowered by corporate training. Instead of watching hours of monotonous videos, what if you received bits and pieces of information in an entertaining and engaging way?

Generation Z is already learning more from short soundbites on Snapchat, Tik Tok and YouTube than from textbooks and outdated training modules. For the first generation to grow up with smartphones, learning will be unrecognizable from previous generations.

Quick and entertaining content provides learners with the information they need in a way that holds their attention. But can a few seconds, minutes or sentences really teach us anything of substance?

Absolutely.

A growing learning modality, nanolearning is a way to deliver condensed information in an engaging format. It provides a few soundbites or sentences of valuable and relevant content via platforms like Tik Tok, Twitter or text messages. According to a study from 2017, 90% of employees welcome a microlearning, approach compared to 72% for video, and as content length becomes shorter, employee preference increases.

It’s possible to apply nanolearning to corporate training — and it’s happening! — but to do so, we must rethink the way we approach content, credentials and assessments.

How Content Will Shift

Nanolearning only has a split second to grab learners’ attention where they are, hook them and deliver the content effectively. It should leave learners with the desire to come back for more.

The best Tik Tok content starts with humor or a shocking fact, and the best tweets pull readers in with a brief insight. These platforms empower creators and learners alike through their content limits, forcing them to get to the punch line quickly. Tweets can’t be longer than 240 characters and Tik Toks can’t be longer than a minute.

Similarly, to leave the world of drawn-out training courses and videos, corporate trainers will need to reach the point quickly — or risk becoming irrelevant. Although limited in length, these bursts of content will be nearly frictionless. Learners will scroll up and down or click on a notification to open, read and share learning content. As a result, training content will be more widespread and accessible than ever before.

Fewer barriers for the learner will mean fewer barriers for the trainer. Because content is easier to read and access, it will be easier to produce and deliver, and topics will be more relevant and flexible than ever before.

But, in a time when everyone can produce and share content, who can we trust to teach us?

How Credentialing and Expertise Will Change

In higher education, experts and content must go through an arduous approval process. Papers have to be published and peer-reviewed, while subject matter experts (SMEs) have advanced degrees and maintain a certain level of research and publications. These measures ensure that students are learning from qualified experts who are teaching accurate, relevant information.

For students specializing in a certain subject, this model is ideal. But what about generalist learning? When we are looking for an overview of a subject or an introduction to a topic, we don’t necessarily seek out those rigorous qualifications. And, especially in a corporate environment, most of the training we provide is general.

Millions of people are experts in some of the most in-demand skills, from software engineering to public speaking and leadership. With the nanolearning approach, the credibility and expertise of an instructor will not come from an accredited institution or college degree but by an amassed following. While these experts will have substantial subject knowledge, they’ll also have exceptional course design and communication skills. The top corporate trainers will be judged by their ability to create engagement and behavior change rather than their degrees.

How Learning Assessment Will Shift

How can we make sure that people are actually learning?

Let’s say you’re starting a new job as a manager, and you want to learn how to be a better leader. You might start researching some online classes in business ethics, negotiation and effective communication.

Given the recent shift to remote work, you’re likely feeling exhausted or experiencing screen fatigue. Between your video conferences, dial-in meetings and daily walks, you receive short bites of information about ethical dilemmas and cases. These brief pieces of content enable you to take a mental break from the work-from-home life and reflect deeply about how you’d react in that scenario.

You’re also given three-minute meditations, which help you feel calmer and more centered before heading into your next Zoom meeting. Then, at lunchtime, you receive that day’s nanolearning lesson on how to be a better negotiator. Your task is to pair up with a colleague to work on exercises together, and you’ll both be required to submit feedback. By the end of the day, you receive bits of information about businesses “dos and don’ts,” and by the end of the week, you receive a short quiz, and you apply your new knowledge to a short case.

As you can see, we can help learners build skills and habits without using a textbook or taking an exam. Instead, we can measure success using ratings from colleagues, short case studies to assess retained knowledge and surveys about mental well-being.

The Future of Learning

We need to reconsider the way we are preparing for the future of learning. Institutions will remain a place for students to build networks and subject expertise and to learn more about themselves. General knowledge, on the other hand, will lend itself to nanolearning, which will also make education more accessible and cheaper.

Teachers will continue to play essential roles in our society — but in a different way. With the volume of information online, teachers will become master curators. They’ll learn quickly, be flexible and instruct their students effectively with the most relevant content.

While this system of nanolearning needs expertise, it will also need playbooks for how to teach effectively. Creators who can help educators structure their nanolearning coursework will be successful.

Looking Forward

We often hear that change is the only constant. In today’s learning environment, filled with uncertainty, nanolearning can help us adapt, evolve, assess and teach at high speed. Nanolearning fits into a world that moves quickly. After all, in a world that is constantly changing, why should we ever stop learning?

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