Erins Blog - 4-11-2013In his recent blog, The Three-Minute Lesson that Saved My Life, my colleague David Grebow discussed learning “chunks” or “nuggets” – those little pieces of information that aren’t complex but help learners  grasp a piece of information that improves their lives.

This is a story of what can happen when trainers reject “chunks” for large learning programs that audiences can’t – or won’t — handle.

In a previous career, I worked as an instructional designer. I didn’t end up staying on that career path, but I do have vivid memories of creating an integrated training program. The program I worked on included eLearning modules incorporating video, quizzes, coaching, role play, and webinars to tie the whole program together. When this program was conceived, the organization held endless meetings to determine objectives, hosted interviews with subject matter experts, and worked hand-in-hand with the media and IT teams to create over 5,000 pages of documentation for a program that took more than two years to create.

By the time this program — beautifully packaged on 43 CDs with five binders full of information for coaching and role plays — was finally complete and rolled out to the audience, it was already passé.

The information was still relevant, and the pilot showed positive results, but the program was just too big. It was too confusing to administer, with too many tasks, too much information, and too much time required to complete, rendering the program practically useless to the audience.

Responding to the need for a shorter, and more accessible, program, the organization moved quickly to offer face-to-face workshops and webinars and changed its entire training model. Over the next 12 months this comprehensive program, which had been lovingly created over two years, went almost unused. Not because the information was bad, but because the full format in which it was delivered didn’t meet the needs of that particular learning audience.

That audience needed “chunks.” They needed learning delivered in short increments and just-in-time. Here at Brandon Hall Group we’re seeing an audience that increasingly wants their information in smaller pieces, when and how they need it.

At the end of the day when designing a training program it’s important to connect with your learning audience and find out what it wants. These discussions include their goals and objectives, but also the resources the audience is willing to invest in the program, including time. Audiences are proving that they are not interested in comprehensive programs that teach everyone about everything. They use programs with small amounts of information up front and then supplemental learning that’s easily accessible and imbedded into a day-to-day environment. Such programs are often online, and use mobile and social tools to meet the audience where it is, not where program creators think it should be.

Designing within the needs of your learning audience is what will help your learners do their best! Brandon Hall Group offers a number of informative webinars that cover a variety of topics. In May we’ll discuss engaging Millennials, and delivering content in an increasingly mobile world. Please join us for these webinars discussing training for specific audiences.

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