Is Bite-Size the Right Size for Your Team’s Training?
Posted: September 7, 2016
What do Legos, mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, and learning solutions have in common? Think small bites or small chunks! In a world of constant change, unlimited choices, and limited attention spans — small, mini, and micro seem to be the hippest solutions to our overwhelmed, distracted, and not-enough-time society.
I’m a HUGE proponent for small, meaningful learning chunks. I’ve spent years fighting with subject matter experts who think that everything in their brain (and let’s not forget the kitchen sink!) needs to be downloaded and incorporated into a training program. Every good instructional designer knows that small, manageable chunks are how the human brain best processes information, and if applied immediately, this is the best way to assimilate and get some serious productivity results.
So why is this approach not spreading like a chocolate fountain that just got toppled over at a buffet table? Well, with any good learning solution, it’s all in the planning, consideration, and careful construction. I’ve found that the answers to the five questions below allow you to lay a good foundation to build your new Lego empire.
What is the complexity of the subject matter?
Teaching someone how to document and monitor risks for a project and teaching someone how to manage a project are very different learning opportunities. The complexity of your subject matter is an important consideration. The first, documenting and monitoring risks, is a much simpler task than managing an entire project and could be taught in a small, one session/component type solution. Learning how to manage a project is a complex grouping of tasks that can definitely be broken down into small, meaningful chunks — but how they fit together and how the learner will apply them into a beautiful symphony has to be carefully planned. It most likely will incorporate many components and delivery mechanisms based on the results you want to achieve. The beauty of using the small-chunk methodology for complex topics is the ability to layer learning and weave in application and mentoring.
Who is your audience?
Small learning chunks work best if they can be customized to specific learning needs, topics, or tasks. Knowing the experience, knowledge and skills of your audience is critical. If you wish to reach a wider audience, you will need to plan how a less experienced learner can gain the appropriate background, knowledge, and/or skills needed to participate successfully in the course without being confused, frustrated, and telling ten others about how he or she wasted their time.
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What results do you want to achieve?
This is my all-time favorite question and one that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Everyone comes to the table with different expectations. Don’t let your ego win the game of “If I ask, everyone will think I’m stupid because I had to ask.” Most of us normal folk don’t have ESP! If you aren’t clear on the end result or if what you think is the end result doesn’t match others’ expectations…you can bet that the first sizable earthquake will have your foundation crumbling.
How are you engaging people?
I’ve seen some good instructional writing in my day, but using the right words with appropriate sentence structure does not equal engaging content. I’m sure you’ve experienced reading the first few sentences or paragraphs of a training component and hoping your boss has an emergency in which only you can handle it. Engagement is crucial! Let’s remember there are grown adults hooked on Farmville, Pokémon Go, and Candy Crush. They continuously come back for their next fix or competitive high. You have to engage the learner in activity, interaction, and fun competition, especially if you are creating a large program with multi-layered chunks. You need to keep learners coming back for more. Ask the questions: “How do my learners get their next fix?” and “How do I create a competitive environment?”
What is your accessibility plan?
This is a big question and one that can be forgotten in all the excitement. Companies across the globe are in different stages of learning how to provide self-serve learning opportunities to their employees. You may have to put on your thinking cap and ask others to help brainstorm ideas depending on where your company is in this journey. Items to incorporate in your plan could include:
- Should components be pushed in a specific sequence or can learners choose how they organize their learning?
- Can learners access learning opportunities when it’s convenient for them? How can this be done with your company’s current capabilities? I’ve seen some really creative, non-techie solutions that took some extra collaboration, but were well worth the time.
- Are learning components organized in an intuitive manner that is easy for learners to navigate, find what they need, and know what is next?
Ready to figure out if bite-size is the right size?
About the Author
Teresa’s passion for performance improvement started in her first management role. The ability to play a part in helping others improve and achieve has been her lifelong passion. She has worked with a variety of industries to analyze and solve performance issues and improve individual performance through development of innovative learning solutions. Most recently, Teresa has added certified professional coach to her repertoire with a focus on inspiring and guiding women to take on new challenges, find their joy and live a life full of possibilities. Teresa has two beautiful daughters and lives in Jacksonville, FL.