Monday, August 24, 2015

Learning in 30 Seconds-Learning ala The Matrix Style

How would you like to learn the way they do in the blockbuster movie "The Matrix"? 

Was there ever a time when you just want to download a whole bunch of information-minus the hole at the back of your neck-into your brain and viola!? When you want to be a musician, you just plug that "musician plugin" and all of a sudden you're performing in a concert. When you want to be a programmer, you just download the latest "programmer plugin" and you're set to write the next killer app.

According to Teemu Torvelainen in a newsletter entitled "What are nano-learning and m-learning?," "In the Matrix films, new skills were learned fast. Instructions on how to fly a helicopter, the characteristics of a motorcycle, and many other things were downloaded in a couple of seconds. This could be called nano-learning. Such training contents, or modules, are extremely short, take a minute or two, and focus on the point. Learning takes place at exactly the right moment and in the right place."

What is Nano-Learning?
There are different terms used in reference to it including micro-learning and small bites learning. However, it's all about breaking down huge chunks of information into small, bite-size, digestible morsels.  And this is not even a new idea. In the words of Elliott Masie, President of The Masie Center and the director of the Learning Consortium, "I am a nano-learner. What does that mean? Each day, I learn several things in small chunks. Really small chunks. A 90-second conversation with an expert triggers a huge 'a-ha.' A few moments concentrating on learning how something works leads to a new micro-skill. What's more, I am not that unusual. Most people acquire most of their knowledge in smaller pieces."

  • The video above tells us the basic of micro-learning. Using the cake analogy, it gives us the idea that we should not learn anything that doesn't fit our brains. Hence, "don't eat anything larger than your head."
  • The normal way people acquire knowledge is by learning in small steps. These bite-size morsels of information that we consume forms a broader and deeper connected knowledge.
  • The idea is to take a learning unit that takes seconds to learn or do. Micro content should not take longer than 15 minutes.
  • Make the information learned, a part of the daily routine. Acquiring this habit allows learning to really sink in.
  • Incorporate micro-learning in the virtual learning environment. This way, you can impart knowledge the micro-learning way too.
As it turns out, nano-learning is actually how people normally learn. It's not an event, a lesson, or a content, but rather a way of using the smallest ideas to get things done or get results. Knowledge is cumulative. This means that what we know at this point in our lives is just the sum total of all the micro-learnings in our entire lifetime.

How to Empower Your Organization Through Nano-Learning

Although the Matrix analogy is fictional, nano-learning is not. It has been effectively used in various scenarios to empower organizations. Companies have been using this technique to introduce new products or a new way of dealing with customers.

Another way nano-learning is used is in the creation of ads. You do not have the luxury of lengthy explanation about how your product can improve people's lives. You only have a few seconds to grab viewer's attention, so making use of that small window is crucial.

  • The video above showed how companies can systematically use nano-learning to empower their employees without sucking the life out of the learning experience. There are four stages in a learning journey namely, Prepare, Equip, Apply, Reactivate and Support. 
  • Prepare-four things occur at this stage namely Introduction, Orientation, Alignment and Inspiration.
  • Equip-another set of four occurs at this stage and they are known as Course, Campaign, Coaching and Cohort.
  • Apply-the four most important factors here are Practical Factors, Checklist, Certification and Active Coaching.
  • Reactivate-at the reactivation stage, the fact that the brain forgets a lot easily is taken into consideration and that's why four factors are important at this stage namely, Recap, Reflect, Reinforce and Repeat.
  • Support-taking into account that we can't contain everything in our head, at the support stage four factors are also taken into consideration. These factors are Performance Support, Help Desk, Expert Network and Community.
  • From the rest of the video, you can see that micro learning is used to deliver content in all stages of the learning journey.

What Does this Mean for Designers?

Most instructional designers are not aware of the power that nano-learning packs in. It gives you the opportunity connect to your audience in an instant! No need to bore them with details, just deliver the meat of your topic in a creative and effective way. 

"We have a unique opportunity to stretch our thinking about the size of our average learning project. Right now, most learning modules start at 15 minutes and often cover hours or days of involvement. But most learning moments are teachable moments. Malcolm Knowles described the perfect teachable moment as the intersection of a small question with a great small answer. That is at the heart of nano-learning." Elliott Masie added. 

For your audience, it gives them the most of what you have to share without being bogged down with the details. It keeps them interested and connected to you. In short, nano-learning is a win-win situation for both you and your audience.


Elliott Masie: Nano-Learning: Miniaturization of Design: Dec. 28, 2005  

Teemu Torvelainen: What are nano-learning and m-learning?: Nov. 17, 2007

Cognitive Advisors: Nano-Coaching

Liz Stinson Design: An App That Tells the Fascinating Stories Behind 5 Fonts: Web: Sept. 24, 2014

Kerri Simmons: 10 Things You Should Know About Nano-Learning: Less Is More 

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Brain and The Stories We Tell: Top Reasons Why Stories Change Our Behavior

A sage was once asked by his students, "Master, we ask you the truth and you tell us stories," to which the master replied, "the shortest distance between you and the truth is a story."

So what are the things we learn from stories? Why do we hang on to every word that the character utters? Has the character changed our behavior? Suppose we replace the character with a lecturer, would you get the same automatic connection? Probably not.

Are Our Brains Hardwired for Storytelling?

An award winning storyteller who has performed for 6.5 million audiences and a prolific author who has written 34 books, Kendal Haven answers with a resounding yes! As a nationally recognized expert on story structure, Haven believes that our brains are hardwired for storytelling and that we're not just Home sapiens, we are Homo narratives. According to Haven, we prefer to remember stories better than non-story information.

  • People are willing to pay to be engaged. You want to buy their attention. They want to pay with their attention to be engaged. Attention is the currency in the exchange of ideas and stories to ensure that they are engaged.
  • Human beings have been telling stories for 100,000-300,000 years. The human species has relied on stories as a structure and has been used to convey and archive learning, history and wisdom. We are hardwired for stories and that's why it resonates with us.
  • According to EEG recordings, from sensory organs (seeing, hearing, smelling, touch and taste), information goes through the neural story net and are converted to story form before it gets to the conscious mind.
  • The story net automatically distorts and makes up its own version of the story to make sense of it. We need effective story structures to ensure the accuracy of the information being conveyed through the story.
Listen to the FULL Audio for 40 minutes here.

What Happens in the Brain During Storytelling Session?

The brain is not in neutral when we hear stories, its gears are engaged. It's ready to make its own judgments and is synchronized with the storyteller. "When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized. When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners' brains.", says Princeton researcher Uri Hasson.

We know that the experiences presented in the stories can be experienced by them too. This automatic connection or synchronization between teacher and learner is seldom achieved through traditional teaching methods.

What We Learn from Stories: Values, Morals and How to Live Our Lives

Stories have characters placed in a specific situation. We easily identify with them and how they cope with the situation that they are in. What is the moral dilemma that they are facing? Did their values in life help in achieving moral clarity? In short, how the characters live their lives become an example for us. 

So it's not accidental when we use characters in a story, it's intentional. There is a foundational theory that characters represent the teaching moments. And it is in our use of these characters that we can impart knowledge. Since stories are that influential, isn't this the best way for educators to embed technical compliance and other learning content?
  1. What is the goal of the main character? Did he manage to accomplish his goals? Every story is resolved when the character fails or accomplishes his goal.
  2. Conflicts. What is keeping the character from getting what he wants?
  3. Risk and danger keep the excitement in the story. What can possibly go wrong?
  4. What is the struggle the main character is facing? What is the main character up against? This keeps us glued to the story.
  5. Details make the audience add pictures to the stories. Designers can effectively use details to insert learning content in the stories.
  6. Motive explains why the goal is important and makes us identify with the characters. We become the character so to speak and we pay attention.

Emma Pearse: 17 Life Lessons From 'Stories We Tell': Web: JUNE 24, 2013

Michale Gabriel: Learning and Growing Through Stories: April 1999: New Horizons for Learning  

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Letting Go of the Need to Know Everything: Use Context Setting Learning Objectives

How do we make sense of the huge barrage of information that we encounter on a daily basis? We need to let go of the need to know everything. We need to train both our learners and leaders to resist the tendency to dump content. We need to help learners focus on usefulness and context of the content and to design and deliver training and eLearning programs to reflect this principle.

According to Dr. Daniel Levitin, PhD, author of the bestselling book This is Your Brain On Music, we process 34 gigabytes of information during our leisure time alone and we would have created a world with 300 exabytes of human made information. Every hour, YouTube uploads 6,000 hours of video content. It's just impossible to keep up. Information overload is a growing concern and it has been discovered that the human mind can only take so much information at a given time. It needs time to digest.

A Huge Problem for Corporations, Classrooms and eLearning Lessons

Organizations are unaware that they are actually paying a high premium for information inundation. Employees are not as productive when they are pressured to learn new things in with so little time. Hence, information and its application seem to be divorced from each other. "Corporations are failing to help staff cope with the technological barrage, daily meetings and constant connection, leading to rising levels of stress and psychological illness and costing billions in lost productivity," says Sarah O'Carroll in her article "How email deluge makes frustrated workers go postal" published by Herald Sun Melbourne Edition.

Have you tried being in front of your computer trying to complete an elearning course? Can you still remember how instantly you became confused, frustrated and overwhelmed because of the information dumped on you? The overload problem manifests in elearning, classroom training and other forms of learning. The tendency to dump content is high. The challenge for eLearning designers and leaders is to engage users without overwhelming them.

Solutions for Learners and Companies

Paul Hemp in his article "Death by Information Overload" published by Harvard Business Review, suggested some solutions to the problem: changing corporate cultures, providing better tools, learning to use tools to filter and focus. Although these are great suggestions, the most important and may be the most critical is a change in our belief system or attitude. Jerry Michalski, an independent consultant on the use of social media nailed it, "You have to be Zen-like... You have to let go of the need to know everything completely."

Why do we need to let go of the need to know everything? In training we are focused on production and efficiency of delivering content, not on its usefulness. Its consequence is the slowing down of the usage of content particularly apparent in the overload problems.

Context is the True King, Not Content

With the avalanche of information caused by high speed telecommunications and information technology, the current challenge is not the lack of content, it's the lack of context. 
The need to refocus learning objectives on the needs of learners becomes apparent. For example, story-based learning objectives focus on acquiring knowledge in small steps. Instead of writing content from the context of the designer, write it as a set-up so learners can instantly see their usefulness in real life context. 

In designing content, always start by asking learners what is important to them and why. Why use story questions? Because you are are encouraging learners to bring forth their own stories. The key idea is that with the presence of so many content, the learners must be helped with your questions so they can focus on what they consider useful. When we skip this process, we don't help the learners. Here are some story-based questions aimed to help learners find out the usefulness in a content:
  • What problems will you solve if you find the answer?
  • What is important to you?
  • What are you trying to solve?
  • What do you know NOW about this topic?
  • What do you want to know about this topic?
  • How will you go about learning more about this topic?
  • How do others feel and what do they say about this topic?
  • How does the above change your understanding of what it is that you want?

Context Setting Learning Objectives

How do we operationalize using learning objectives to helpful learners discover the usefulness of content and finding context instantly? Let's call this Story-Based Learning Objectives.

Preview the two examples below.

Example 1 - Probing Questions

Example 2 - Confidential Documents 

What is the difference between the static learning objectives and Story-Based Learning Objectives? Static learning objectives are statements of facts or academic learning goals.  This is an example of what we dump on learning lessons. 

We expect the learners to appreciate and learn academic goals. Naturally, it is difficult to learn by the sheer nature that it is hard to find meaning from a static fact. 

Story-Based Learning Objectives on the other hand are context driven. They quickly bring the content into a contextual form. They help the learners visualize the value of the context in real-life context. 

In preparing the Story-Based Learning Objectives above by focusing usefulness and context, do we engage the learner? Do we shorten his/her stress? Do we hasten his/her understanding of the content? And do we make it easier for the learner to apply the ideas presented within the content? 

The "Set Up Steps" of Story-Based Learning Design helps you to convert your content into highly contextually focused learning objectives.

I'd love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments section. 


Ray Jimenez, PhD. Story Impacts Learning and Performance: Monogatari Press. March 5, 2013

John Gantz, Angele Boyd, and Seana Dowling: Cutting the Clutter: Tackling Information Overload at the Source

Annual Reviews: The Role of the Critical Review Article in Alleviating Information Overload

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, August 10, 2015

Case Study- Reducing eLearning Cost to 50% by Using Must-Learn Lessons and Micro-Learning

This case study presents a series of strategies and tactics which help you answer these questions:
  • How do I respond to rapid business needs for e-Learning?
  • How do I decide which approach can dramatically increase the speed of development and how do I calculate the returns?
  • How do I work effectively with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to obtain content?
  • What strategy ensures that the software meets rapid development and cost objectives?

Here are some excerpts from the article:
  • Rapid e-Learning as a term is an oxymoron. e-Learning is inherently rapid.  Its principles are all about speed and quality. It provides immediate learning. Its tools and software are fast, inexpensive and have more capabilities than we can even imagine. It is personalized and just-in-time learning at its best.  
  • Our e-Learning programs are at least 50% heavier than they should really be (too much content).  These are at least 75% cumbersome (too much control) than what is required by e-learners.
  • We need to present an architectural plan or infrastructure for our e-Learning program so all contributors can follow a process.
  • Remember "Garbage in, garbage out"? Well, it may be more like: "The more garbage is generated, the slower the speed or flow, the higher the costs - and the quality stinks."
  • Software developers and suppliers have their own "beliefs" borne out of their backgrounds, origins, interests and skill sets.
  • Add interactivity only whenever and wherever it matters.
  • This architecture provides clear direction for design, processes, and software and resource requirements - that lead to a clarity of standards and streamlined decision making.
  • Reduce the amount of content to focus on "must learns." This increases the speed of development, cuts the costs and meets e-learners' needs.
  • The ability to randomly select application  points allows e-learners to learn or apply ideas rapidly; it cuts down by 75% the burden of forcing learners to go page by page.
  • Assist SMEs to organize, categorize, write and display the content that meets the standard of your architecture (structure their contribution so it is easy and time efficient for them).
  • You can also maximize the full capability of the software when you know the end results you wish to derive.
  • Not all content should be in an interactive form. Don't rush into converting content into interactive format if  plain text, images and references will work. If only 20% of your content needs to be interactive, then you already drastically reduce your development time. You also help the learners focus on what is truly important and what matters - which is one of e-learners' needs.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Three Best Videos on the Story-Based Design Approach

I am thrilled to present you five of my best videos, each one providing you with a sneak peak, as well as helpful tips, on how the Story-Based eLearning Design can transform your courses into high-impact learning events.

Must Learn - Does Your Learner Need 1,500 Pages?
  • How many percent of 1500 would a learner require in order to start working at their new job? It depends on the content, but never all 1500 pages.
  • Why do we expect our learners to go through all 1500 pages as if we expect them to master the massive information?
  • Must-learns -  important information we want learners to learn quickly because they need learning competencies and skill sets they can build on the job quickly so that they can perform.
  • Mastery or full competency - these are learnings they can only learn over time so they can become masters of it.
  • We don't want to train a master in just one hour or even a 5-hour eLearning course.
  • Focus on separating the must-learn from the working competency to the full competency content so we can focus our energies.

 Extreme Stories

  • In selecting stories, we tend to select those that show extreme emotions.
  • There is a science behind it - our minds no longer respond to typical situations.
  • Sometimes, we get so used to typical situations on routine, we go on autopilot but when something particularly eventful happens, we tend to remember that for a long time.
  • When you tell a dull story, nobody will pay attention to it.
  • When you design stories you need to infuse these with new information so you tend to exaggerate the details.

Embedding Content in Stories

  • Sometimes you encounter participants who have no experience or idea about embedding technical aspects of a module into a story.
  • Add more elements into the story so learners will see information that he may not have known ahead of time, or skipped through.
  • If it's the first time for a learner to encounter a policy, a good strategy would be to have one of the characters explain the benefits and the impact of the policy to help learners gain a better understanding.
  • Allow learners to discover the facts and learnings embedded in the story. As they go deeper into the story, the more they will discover.
  • The more you embed, the more you will be providing them with a more enriching experience.
I would love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"