Today, people are surrounded by devices and platforms constantly vying for their attention. Emails offer updates from friends, family, and even favorite brands; social media shows what networks are doing; and someone always has a question on Slack. This transition to a digital-first world has changed how learners seek, view, and interact with learning content. As content providers, we need to rethink the delivery methods we have in place and leverage strategies to keep our members engaged.
Understanding the Learner
Anecdotally, we know that with the introduction of technologies like the internet and smartphones, our attention spans have drastically decreased. Now more research is coming to light to back that up. The typical learner today is able to hold focus and attention for no more than 20 straight minutes. In her book Understanding Occupational & Organizational Psychology, psychologist Lynne Millward argued that presenting information in parcels is the best way to ensure it’s processed in meaningful, lasting ways. Prezi’s 2018 State of Attention report reinforced that text- and bullet-heavy presentations make it difficult for observers to retain information, with 80% of business professionals admitting they have turned their attention away due to unengaging design.
Ultimately, as content providers within an association, we need to be prepared to rethink the programs we are delivering to ensure we’re providing valuable information in easily digestible ways. Bite-sized learning—small, self-contained, and short learning modules lasting under half an hour and focused on a small number of objectives—is perfectly suited to giving our brains access to the concise information they crave.
Building the Content
There are three main pillars to developing a bite-sized learning program.
- KISS: Though there are a handful of different ways people interpret this, in the world of bite-sized learning it stands for Keep It Short and Simple. A bite-sized learning program should meet a single objective or address one specific topic at a time. The courses should be broken down into their most basic frameworks and delivered in a simple, easy-to-understand manner. This will not only increase the likelihood of comprehension, but it will also enhance retention. They should be kept to a digestible length, ideally five to 10 minutes, to ensure learning can easily be absorbed by the member anywhere, anytime.
- Engaging Elements: Leverage components throughout your programs that are known to increase engagement. These include video, graphics, animations, audio presentations, and possibly the most engaging of them all—storytelling! As humans, we are born storytellers. We learn about people’s experiences, our family’s history, and new ways of doing things by listening to stories others tell us. When used appropriately, storytelling is an effective tool that can capture the focus and attention of your audience, even in the business world.
- Lean, Mean Learning Machine: In traditional learning programs, there is a time and a place to pack course content with as much information as possible. However, this needs to change with a bite-sized learning program, so you can cut straight to the chase.
To keep courses succinct and focus solely on what skills, knowledge, or understanding you want learners to walk away with once they’re done, use the principle of three. Let’s look at an example. If I’m building a bite-sized course on healthy living, I could choose to address any number of topics, but I’m going to stick to three: drinking 64 ounces of water each day, getting seven to nine hours of sleep, and moving your body for 30 minutes. For each of these behaviors, I’ll provide three ideas on ways you can make them a part of your daily routine—and that’s it! Add a brief introduction and conclusion, and my bite-sized learning program is complete.
Delivering the Program
Bite-sized learning programs can be some of the easiest to deliver because when they are built correctly, they can stand alone.
One way to make bite-sized learning programs even more effective is by building personalized learning paths that leverage a variety of bite-sized learning programs to enhance the skills, knowledge, and behavior of your members in the specific areas that are relevant to them. Features like awards and certificates can come in handy here, as they’re easy, visible, and understandable ways to showcase skill achievements.