Digital learning has been a hot topic for years; however, many organizations large and small still struggle with where to start. The secret may be to think small.
Bite-sized learning is the process of learning through short, easily accessible and digestible assets. These can come from a variety of formats: videos, games, infographics, audio podcasts, iPDFs, and short web-based training demos to name a few. They provide just-in-time information a learner needs while performing their job. Simply put, it establishes autonomy, enables the learner to leverage technology they’re comfortable with (as a majority of bite-sized learning assets are video-based), and gives them more time to spend on work-related activities.
The challenge is that everyone thinks bite-sized learning is easy to accomplish in this age of technology. Take out a phone/device, hit record, and post. Well, it is not that easy. Here are five tips for improving bite-sized learning.
1. PLAN FOR IT
To support continuous learning, several components should be included in a digital learning strategy that incorporates bite-sized assets. Organizations should consider the following topics:
- Planning: Identify the business problem, tie to formal training, timing for pushing content versus learners pulling it, learner experiences, how assets will be used, leadership support, and implementation workstreams.
- Design and development: Determine the guiding principles to development of assets, leadership engagement in the development, learner-generated content, length of assets to meet learner needs, work-based learning to help boost retention, tie to natural work day, and development and design resources.
- Delivery: Identify technology available to house assets, ease of learner access, social sharing opportunities, mobile-ready/accessibility, and learning management system (LMS) tie.
- Maintenance: Consider governance of the assets (development, quality assurance, distribution, etc.), quality reviews, and knowledge management (strategy, metadata, naming conventions, and tagging).
- Measurement: Determine key performance indicators (KPIs), measurement resources, technology, and reporting processes.
Once the above considerations are documented and a formal strategy is in place, then it’s time to get started!
Governance – What works and what you want to avoid
Having decided on the overall strategy and where all the bite-sized assets are housed is just one component of the governance process. Do not just focus on the maintenance side of governance – consider the full life-cycle. Determine who will control what professionals see and when they see it.
Additionally, have all assets reviewed by subject matter experts or learning professionals to determine accuracy of content, quality and consistency in products produced, especially if learner-generated. Credibility will be lost in a fraction of the time it took to create one single asset otherwise. Always allow time for oversight – the value is priceless.
Bite-sized learning can be part of formal training or standalone. Learners can be required to take bite-sized learnings from an available list, or it can be dictated as a pre-requisite. In this case, it is best to have all these assets in an LMS or similar system to be able to pull data on important aspects of measurement that support the goals. Consider tracking the number of times an asset is accessed, duration of view, and when a specific asset was watched.
All of this informs learner behaviors and consumption preferences, helping with what to provide, how to provide it and when it is most needed.
This is similarly true if the bite-sized learning is offered on demand, independent of a formal learning program. What if an organization does not have an LMS? Assets can be put in an online database or a video channel as well (like a private YouTube-type channel for example), where organizations can still track data to meet KPIs.
To this point, naming assets, lessons, and modules becomes extremely critical as well. One approach to leverage is the university numbering system/schema to inform the learner about the type and level of content. For example, using a naming system like 101 for basic, 201 for intermediate, and 301 for advanced content can easily help a learner decipher the complexity of the content. There is no one right answer, just be consistent.
2. DESIGN AND DEVELOP IT
When considering the design and the type of templates to create, it is still critical to first consider the learning objectives and how granular the content needs to be. Bite-sized learning assets, in any format, may not be the right answer for the business problem and/or the learner’s needs. Start with this, then determine the correct approach.
Using templates to develop and design bite-sized learning will make the process easier. This is a great way to leverage the talents within the organization and engage the entire team to come up with standard templates. When starting down this road, consider the following:
- Create a variety of templates: podcasts, key takeaways, games, quizzes, crossword puzzles, iPDFs, video-based, etc.
- Consider learner preferences and learning styles: Templates should reflect the type of learner. For example, a lesson may contain several bite-sized assets in the form of a video, a pdf, and an audio component to enhance the learning effectiveness.
- Determine source of content when creating a template like whether it’s new content or coming from a large course divided into separate bite-sized assets.
3. DELIVER IT
Knowing a shift in strategy is needed is one thing, being able to implement the plan is another. When an organization’s goal is to foster independent, continuous learning, different approaches to implementation may be needed. One approach is to curate and coordinate courses and resources that help professionals connect with the learning they need, in the format they want, at the moment it is most useful. This philosophy can reduce required learning hours, make resources available to learners at the time of need, provide content relevant to each learner, and increase engagement and retention of that content.
Formalizing informal learning
There will be times when there is a need to leverage bite-sized on-demand assets to support formal training. Software applications can be attached to an LMS enabling learners to quickly search for relevant bite-sized content and filter by duration, modality, topics and more. This is especially important, as just building the content is not enough to ensure it will be consumed. Consider using bite-sized assets as pre-work or post-work. They provide quick pieces of vital information prior to a course and serve as excellent post-learning reminders, helping solidify the concepts and content learned when back on-the-job.
4. MEASURE IT
Measuring the success of the overall strategy as well as the bite-sized assets themselves is critical. The approach to measurement must tie to the overall strategy and what business goals and KPIs have been identified. Some approaches may include:
- Pull data on number of times an asset is accessed, duration of view, when it was viewed, unique views, and repeat views. This can be accomplished through the software used and/or adding some type of analytic software to the site where the assets live. Know what data is available at the start.
- Add short pop-up surveys or thumbs up/stars to assets to assess whether assets have met participants needs and/or if they need something else.
- Send a survey to all possible learners to determine if they have accessed (if not known) and to ask pertinent questions to gather feedback.
- Hold virtual or in-person focus groups with those who have completed and not completed assets.
- Add a quick poll or one open-ended question to the page where the bite-sized assets live to give learners a chance to provide feedback and help determine what worked and/or what was missing.
- Talk to supervisors of the target audience to see if job performance has improved and identify needs.
5. MAINTAIN IT
Work on bite-size assets doesn’t end with their deployment. Their maintenance is critical. Determine how often the assets will need to be reviewed for relevance and accuracy and who will review those assets. Create a timeline for ongoing technology and site maintenance. Review naming conventions regularly and monitor for redundancy. It is also critical to regularly meet with stakeholders to modify and adjust strategy, and continually assess learners’ needs and align assets to them.
Considering all aspects of bite-sized learning — from planning to measurement and maintenance — can enhance any organization’s learning strategy. Thinking small can produce big results.