We’ve all heard how micro learning or learning that takes between 1- 10 minutes is a trend in learning and development departments in both large and small companies around the world. Micro learning is often seen as having the advantage of taking less time to build and consume but primarily seen as only a performance enhancement rather than as a stand alone learning approach. We think there are some key reasons why building learning content in short bites combining only text, video, audio or pdfs may serve to not only displace long form course content but also be seen as a primary learning approach for teams in the future. Long form content are those courses that take beyond 10-15 minutes to complete by a learner and are typically hand crafted using more sophisticated authoring tools such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate 360.
1) The vast majority of learning and development departments don’t have time now to develop long form training – besides for compliance. Everyone really only has time to create short learning.
Traditional long-form content development (concept, design, interviews of subject matter experts, execution and testing ) requires a great deal of thought in terms of organization, determining learning objectives, goals, design – to make it engaging as well as the time spent for interviews/ knowledge transfer sessions between subject matter experts and instructional designers. This is why today, very little training is produced for the unique job skills of employees in companies. Typically, it’s generic and sold as third party content based on a given industry.
By producing very small bite size learning, this frees up subject matter experts or managers to quickly impart the skill, job concept or other wisdom their team needs to learn and do their job. There are a number of tools out there, including Feathercap which are extremely easy and fast to produce short learning content. The downside is the learner does lose out on the instructional designer’s vision of how and exactly when content is and should be consumed. But then ask yourself what’s the ratio of time to produce 45 minutes of training? 5:1 – 5 hours of effort for 1 hour of content? 10:1? Bryan Chapman a number of years ago attempted to answer this question had even more alarming ratios of 49:1 for what he termed rapid authoring tools! Then, what happens when it needs to be updated? This is why typically only fairly static content like security awareness, harassment or other key HR topical courses which don’t change much are produced.
2) Curation…its getting much easier for the machines to automatically categorize content. So you don’t have to.
The process of content curation, deciding the order and relevancy of content will move to AI driven auto curation systems. Long form courses essentially are a collection of thoughtfully organized pages and chapters which serve to teach on multiple learning objectives. Its a process completed by sound instructional design principles to maximize the ability to engage and teach a learner.
Since curation of content was so traditionally difficult long form/ multiple chapter and page courses were necessary to ensure learners received the right combination of content to achieve learning objectives. We’ve spoken about this in other posts, specifically: “Six reasons why disruption is coming to learning departments”.
Amazon AWS recently announced their newest machine learning tools for curation/ understanding of content. These natural language processing services have the ability to analyze any text, web page, document and even social media posts or emails to automatically extract “meaning” and assign topics and also take any video or audio file and transcribe any spoken audio into written text to also extract meaning and equally organized as above. This means most any produced content can be categorized, understood with topic labels automatically assigned. The knowledge from the subject matter expert suddenly has a rapid path to any intended learner. The process of curating content organized and classified in this way becomes much easier than manually combining into a larger course. Such curation/ categorization can’t replace the instructional design principles yet of a human, but it makes it a lot easier for more quickly produced smaller and desired content to reach a learner in a suitable order and time frame. This reduces the burden of instructional designers since instead of crafting a whole course, they could “suggest” alignment of content that’s created by others and select either by automation or manually the best elements to include and in what order.
Short content could be used standalone or as part of a collection to achieve a set of skills. Such as onboarding or refreshing skills in an existing job. Making learning shorter and focusing on only one or two learning objectives means it will be more likely utilized afterwards as a performance tool as well as primary learning component.
3) The above AI systems will enable a level of understanding of context when a learner needs to know something that will mimic an automated coach. Hand built, long form courses may not be required any longer.
Educational Psychologist Benjamin Bloom in 1984 posed a challenge right in the title of his research. He contended that one on one coaching produces two standard deviations – 2 sigma – of improvement to students learning a given subject versus those in a classroom. That means if they got a “C” previously while in a classroom setting they would get an “A” after learning the same subject from one-on-one coaching approach. Where we define a “classroom” as a group of learners all receiving the same training without as much back and forth interaction as a one-on-one coach. The title of his research: “The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search For Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring”. Could the AI/ machine learning technologies above help to achieve this? In this context using and building micro learning in this way could enable a learning conversation between learner and author. Since micro learning and short form learning is more easily and quickly produced the author and even the learner could participate in an ongoing knowledge exchange that potentially could train learners faster than long form and static content.
 “The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring”, Benjamin S. Bloom. Educational Researcher, Vol 13, No. 6. (Jun – Jul.. 1984, pp4-16. http://web.mit.edu/5.95/readings/bloom-two-sigma.pdf