The way we learn has changed significantly over the past decade. When we want to upskill or find a solution to a particular problem, many of us head to YouTube. We then generally pick a clip from the shorter end of the spectrum, even though we are aware that a longer one might provide more context and additional information that could be useful in the long run. However, that seems unnecessary to get what we need, so the three-minute one it is.
Like many things in our daily life, learning has become more digital. It has also become a lot shorter, at least in the “per-session” sense. The trend described above is becoming the norm, and not only in our spare time: More and more companies are ditching traditional learning models and adopting the “microlearning” approach—i.e. learning via bite-sized pieces of content that take less than ten minutes to consume per session.
But does this approach work?
The answer is yes. I can answer this with confidence, based on my personal experience of being an avid learner in the workplace and beyond. However, there is also a much more objective rationale that supports learning in short chunks of content. In the spirit of easily consumable content, I will limit myself to three powerful arguments.
Smaller portions are easier to digest
…and turn into long-term memory. According to George Miller’s research, our attention span and short-term memory is naturally limited to processing information in chunks. Dividing content into small, topic-focused sections rather than dumping endless chains of information makes learning more manageable and easier to move into long-term memory. Once the information is in long-term memory, learners remember it and utilize it to build further on a particular topic as well as transfer the newly acquired knowledge to their daily tasks.
We find it increasingly difficult to focus
You almost certainly already know this, but according to science, our attention spans have decreased over the last several decades and are likely to only get shorter. Add to this the interruption-filled work culture of the open office, and you may ask yourself: In today’s workplace, how is it feasible to learn in any format other than fast-moving short chunks of information?
We like to do things on our mobile devices
We love mobile for many reasons, including the fact that the device in our pocket allows us to utilize moments that could otherwise be unproductive, such as our daily commute, waiting for appointments, travel delays, etc. Although it is great to be productive during time that could be wasted, the downside is that such environments are often not suitable for lengthy content and are more effective when information and tools are short, to the point, and easy to save and resume at a later point.
There are many additional reasons that chunk-based learning is effective in today’s fast-paced, work-from-anywhere, disruption-prone work culture. Based on science as well as my subjective experience as a learner, I recommend making it part of your organization’s learning strategy.
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