Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bite-Size Learning: Structured to Engage

Determining the best way to develop "snack" learning content involves more than simply clustering content and making it available on a variety of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, and next iterations of technology).

There is definitely a need to develop effective design. After all, much content delivered in bite-sized bits, but not all of it is engaging.  Just think of the average banner ad (especially if it is a flashing, seizure-inducing animated gif), or a block of teeny-tiny text. Also, no matter how tiny and tasty the chunk of information, if it requires twenty five clicks and a labyrinthine navigation structure, you can count on the fact that only the most doggedly persistent or OCD-driven learner will actually consume that little chunk of learning at the end.

For chunk learning to work, you have to engage the learner.  Once engaged, you’ve established conditions of learning, which, according to cognitive psychologists and researchers such as Gagner, are absolutely critical to having a successful experience. "Snack" or "quick bite" learning works for topics ranging from learning languages, reviewing content for professional licensing, continuing education, technical training, and more.

Here are a few keys to developing and engaging “hooks” for chunk learning:

Promise it will be quick:
Your images and text need to communicate in a nano-second that the entire experience of taking the lesson will be something they can do quickly and painlessly.  The way you name your lessons can help you out: “Lunch and Learn,” “Breaktime Learning,” “Bite-Size Learning” and “Snack Learning,” are just a few of the possible labels you can use that will communicate to your learners that they will be able to complete the lesson in less than an hour. Here is an example from the AAPG:  Sequence Stratigraphy: Part 1 (of 5) 

Performance anxiety is a reality in technology-driven settings, and it does not help that every day seems to herald a new era in devices and operating systems.  New is fun, but instant obsolescence is not. Design the interface so it is intuitive, colorful, and simple. Limit choices. Help your learner relax. An example is's Vocabulary Builder, which is interactive and adaptive.

Effective combination of graphics / text / audio / video: 
Use media strategically to pique learner interest and to keep them continuing to learn.

Make sure your content plays on all devices: 

Your lesson needs to be accessible on smartphones, mobile devices, tables, laptops, and desktops, and it needs to be quick to load. Medical Joyworks is a great example, with Medical Prognosis for the Android, iPhone, as well as tablets and laptops.

Prognosis: Your Diagnosis features clinical case studies in a game setting. It allows the learner to investigate, gather information, research issues, and create diagnoses for complex clinical cases. The interface is cheerful and engaging, with its clear, engaging cartoon sketches.

Thinking about the future: 
Mobile learning is a moving train; perhaps a better metaphor is a Gulfstream G650. The mobile learning winners will continue to be those whose content plays on many devices, and can be completed easily and quickly at the convenience of the learner.

Blog Archive