Key Ingredients to Snack-Sized Learning

By: Dana Peters, CEO, Mondo Learning Solutions
April 24, 2013

We all tend to struggle with the sheer volume of information coming at us every single day, both in our personal and professional lives. Certainly, this is no different for our learners. When it comes to designing and delivering learning programs, many of us recognize that less really can be more. We see fewer and fewer “king-size” training class and more of what I call “snack-size” learning.

Perhaps a bad candy bar analogy, I define snack-size learning as breaking down portions of large training programs into smaller, bite-size pieces. The question that typically follows in response to my explanation is: how do I package down our learning programs into a useful form that is easily digested by our learners?

Stick to what is important and necessary

Many SMEs and trainers enjoy the work they do and are passionate about their little corner of the world. This is good except when they lose focus of the learning objectives for the topic at hand or the specific needs of the learners. Many learners are simply interested in walking away with what they need to be more effective on the job.

All elements of the design and delivery should be concise, of direct value back on the job, and clearly useful to the learner. Anything that is not should be cut. Often it takes several different perspectives to zero in on what is and what isn't necessary.

Create connections to the content quickly and easily

Regardless of the delivery method, are all slides, screens, participant workbooks, user guides, and job tools loaded with pages and pages of words? What could be transformed into graphics, pictures, images, flow charts, imagery time lines, and road maps?

How could this information be at the learners' fingertips moving forward? How could these tools become working pieces learners could adapt into their own living resource?

Involvement

We all know classes consisting of long-winded presentations or lectures, with little or no participation from the learners, are not impactful. The following proverb speaks volumes:

Tell me and I'll forget;
Show me and I may remember;
Involve me and I'll understand.

Learning that involves the learners is a critical component to keep in the front of our minds when we think snack-size. Involvement comes in all forms: relevant exercises/activities, individual work assignments, group project or initiative, brain storming sessions, teach-back segments, or small group discussions around a case study.

Give them time to taste and chew

How do we design so that the learner can take it in, one bite at a time? Spreading learning out over time in several small session or segments, sprinkled with different types of learning opportunities. Allowing for time to apply and experiment back on the job is more likely to lead to long term improvements performance wise.

Offering the information in a variety of ways

Like some people prefer Snickers while other prefers Junior Mints, when it comes to learning, preferences vary by learner. Consider how one segment of information could be offered in a variety of formats. A graphic worksheet requiring independent research to find information, a short video clip with Q&A, or a “ride along” on a live demonstration could each accomplish the same objectives. One method may be more effective for one person and less effective for another.

In the right place at the right time

As you think about snack-size learning consider where your learners are and how you could bring learning to them, right on the job, when they are challenged with a situation, task, or a problem that they are not sure how to tackle. How could you feed them the right information at the right time?

Keep learning alive

There are various ways to foster continuous learning on a topic by incorporating ways for participants to continue to share ideas, successes, and new information. Social media style communication tools, job aids, email shout-outs, discussion boards, lunch & learn opportunities, and buddy assignments are just a few ways to keep the learning alive.

All and all, snack-sized learning is about being focused, on target, concise, creative, and very in tune with your learners and stakeholders.

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