Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Is the Future of Learning Bite-Sized?

 -  5/1/13

These three trends are driving big changes in the industry and make a strong case for bite-sized learning.

Three trends are driving big changes in the learning and development industry, and none have anything to do with informal learning, mobile learning or game-based learning. These trends are miniaturization, modularization and mass customization.


Miniaturization refers to the distilling of a learning experience into smaller, more easily consumed packages. Miniaturization is everywhere, from the size of 32 gigabyte flash drives to wafer-thin televisions.

This shift has repercussions for learning and development functions. Previously, a one- or two-day program would have been acceptable. Now the market is consistently seeking shorter and sharper experiences with immediate practical application. A poll of roughly 200 learning and development practitioners in February showed that more than 90 percent agreed that they will be looking to miniaturize their learning experiences in the year ahead.

For many learning practitioners, however, miniaturization is a challenge. Quality is often mistakenly equated to comprehensiveness. A review of the learning portfolio of Sainsbury’s, a supermarket in the U.K., discovered that among some very well-designed materials, the training manual explaining how to handle shopping carts ran more than 50 pages. Learning design needs to focus on results rather than coverage.

According to the 80-20 rule — or Pareto principle, named after the economist Vilfredo Pareto — for many events roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. In other words, people spend 80 percent of their time in 20 percent of their household space. Another example: 80 percent of listeners’ time is spent on 20 percent of the tracks on their music player.

If we apply this logic to learning, 80 percent of the business results and value comes from 20 percent of the experience or content. The ability to distill and concentrate learning experiences therefore reduces cost and increases return on investment. To do this, learning leaders must ruthlessly focus on the real-world problem that is being solved by the experience.



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