Integrating bite-size learning into your L&D programmes

Happy woman walking through a city

“Let’s break this down, shall we?” Think back to how often you’ve heard this being said in a classroom, in a briefing, in a diagnosis with a doctor, in the locker room huddled with your coach… “Let’s break this down” equals, let’s try to understand this bit by bit. As long as we’ve had the need to explain, train, absorb, imbibe, or what have you, we have had the need to be able do it in a way that we can easily chew. In bite-sizes. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the learning world is seeking bite-sized learning that learners can easily “chew on”.

In a world where opinions and ideas are shared in 140 characters, it’s very understandable that knowledge is shared and imbued in smaller chunks as well.

Be mindful though, bite-sized learning is not just a short learning module. It has characteristics of its own. In a recent discussion with colleagues, someone brought up an interesting analogy: think of bite-sized learning as a Google search.

Most Google searches are phrase-based, i.e. people like to “ask” Google about something they want to know about. It’s about finding the solution for one problem, at the point of need. Few things jump out from this:

  • Bite-sized is about one outcome at a time
  • It’s leading toward a resolution, a problem that needed solving
  • The user initiates the transfer, wanting to “pull” the information they need, when they need it

It does raise some questions though; is there a real place for bite-sized learning in corporations? What makes it bite-sized? How do you ensure that the learners “chew” and not just “swallow” what they bite on?

Let’s break this down, shall we…

Bite-sized learning is making its way into the plans of many L&D departments.

This is happening because learning solutions are more and more becoming about a learning journey which takes learners through engagement, activation, and acceleration; while getting enough opportunities to reflect and explore. Not all activities involved are expected (or even desired) to require a long commitment. Some activities need to be short, focused, singular and lean. This is where bite-sized learning objects come into play.

What’s makes it bite-sized…

Think back to the Google search analogy. It will need to be single outcome focussed, cut to the chase, engaging, relevant to the one goal and all about the solution the learner needs. Not the least, it needs to be quick and short, under 15 minutes and more close to 5 mins.

Make learners chew…

Five minutes is not a very long time when creating a learning intervention. But it can be too long if there is no substance to it. Start straight away by the “how-to”, don’t dwell on the “why”. Your learners will know why they are here, what they want from it, they are only interested in getting it in a way that helps them. Distinguish between “must know”, “should know” and “could know”. Only put the “must know” in the bite-sized piece. The “should know” and “could know” are the before and after pieces. And allow the learner to try, always. Give them something to apply that solution to immediately.

It may be worthwhile repeating the message and allowing a few ways of applying the learning. This could mean creating a few bit(e)s that are correlated. If need be, break down the learning outcome into shorter goals and create an interconnected series of bite-sized learning objects. Pepper your series with solutions and frequent prompts.

Mostly, we should design bite-sized learning directed toward the type of learner that wants it and will use it. All learning solutions need to eventually track back to the learner and their need.