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."
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.
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
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"