Single-concept, or bite-sized, learning is taking the global online education industry by storm.
A natural response to the prevalence of mobile learning and an antidote to lack of time and resources in the workplace, bite-sized learning is ideal for employee education in South Africa.
In our fast-paced, technology driven lives, we are inundated with information and communication.
We are busy, we are distracted and our attention spans are compromised. At the same time, we are expected to know more than ever before in order to keep up with changes within the world of work.
It is therefore not surprising that many people find traditional corporate training overwhelming and ineffective. Reams of information and many hours out of the working day doesn’t make good business sense.
READ: SA schools falling off the e-learning deep-end
Employees are not going to effectively engage with, and retain, the information when it is presented in a long-winded manner, and through this old-fashioned approach, businesses lose precious working hours in the process.
The single-concept learning solution
Unlike the traditional approach, bite-sized learning is tailored to meet the needs of the modern learner. It enables people to engage with snackable nuggets of information on a PC, mobile phone or tablet, anytime, anywhere. This information can be consumed on the go, during a coffee break or on a taxi.
The learning objects are focused on one concept, allowing people to savour, digest and retain the information. The content is designed to fit into their schedules, and to meet their most urgent knowledge needs, rather than disrupting agendas with lengthy lectures and irrelevant information.
These single-concept learning bubbles are chained together or ‘chunked’ to achieve the required outcome of the programme and are scheduled at regular intervals. These intervals provide the necessary space for learners to absorb the information, and allow the brain to be open to be ready for the next information instalment when it comes.
Bite-sized learning burgeons to meet modern needs
The factors that have contributed to the rise, and popularity, of bite-sized learning are varied and intertwined. The key contributors have been the demand for mobile learning, the increase of Millennials in the workforce and the constant pressure faced by companies to develop courses quickly and at a low cost.
According to global researcher Ambient Insight, the mobile learning market is predicted to reach $12.2bn (R164.45bn) by 2017, which is a staggering annual growth rate of 18.2% for the period 2012 to 2017.
With this prevalence of mobile, many companies have started to implement device-based learning, following the lead from their employees who want to be able to access information on their phones, on the go.
Millennials, the drivers of the mobile learning market, are expected to constitute half of the global workforce by 2020, according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report published in 2012.
READ: E-learning not a silver bullet, expert warns
This generation are our technology natives, comfortable with any device, application or digital innovation and completely immersed in the world of social media and instant messaging.
With this easy access to information comes a shortened attention span and the need for content to be exciting, dynamic and hyper-relevant. Bite-sized learning is therefore perfectly suited to young working adults, and the ideal way to communicate, and educate, staff members effectively.
Snackable skills to upskill South African adults
The unemployment problem in South Africa can be attributed to a lack of skills, not a lack of jobs. There is a huge skills shortage in out country, and unfortunately there aren’t the resources necessary to tackle the problem head on.
Training is necessity, but company pressure means that we cannot afford to take time out of the busy work day to focus on training, and often don’t have the budgets to develop text-heavy, printed content that was used in workforce education previously.
In South Africa, more young adults will have access to a mobile device than they do to a desktop or laptop computer. Therefore single-concept learning is a way to engage with South African adults wherever they are, in a way that is convenient, comfortable affordable and accessible.
With data costs still high, and Wi-Fi not readily accessible everywhere, the beauty of single-concept learning is that learners can download the information when they are at the office, to be consumed later, when they are travelling, or they are at home.
The big benefits of going bite-sized
The biggest advantage to using single-concept learning is the improved learner engagement. Studies have shown that learners often find it hard to focus on course material for longer than 20-minutes at one time. This issue can be overcome by dispatching nuggets of useful information to the learner.
Another benefit is that once consumed, this information will be digested and retained more effectively. Humans, especially in our technology-centred lives, have limited capacity to process information. As such, bite-sized courses are perfectly suited to how our brains are wired, allowing us to comprehend and be able to recall these morsels of information more successfully.
Just-in-time support is a very important element of workplace learning. Rather than learning something just in case you might use it in the future, short learning modules can be engaged with in the moment they are needed. By providing real-time, relevant information, this enhances employee efficiency, and as such improves company productivity.
Single-concept learning is becoming prevalent across the globe and businesses in South Africa have the opportunity to ride the wave of this new learning methodology to empower their employees and improve productivity.
*Dennis Lamberti is the Development Director and co-founder of Media Works, the largest Private Adult Basic Education and Training provider in South Africa. Media Works has been operating for 20 years and the various programmes on offer are currently used as a significant instructional resource by over 100 000 learners across Southern Africa.