Bite-size learning: don’t just slice up content and dish it out

Short and focused learning is a concept most people in L&D agree with. We know learning time is tight and that people slot it into their days when they can—and more often, when needed. Resource-based or bite-size learning is a fad that’s here to stay for this reason.

bite-size learning

But bite-size learning isn’t like breadyou don’t just slice it up and dish it out. At least, that’s our take on a recent post from Nick Shackleton-Jones.

If you follow Nick Shackleton-Jones, you may have seen the post where he compares courses with resource-based learning. He identifies a common mistake that can be made when going from one to the other: we break material into smaller chunks and push it out. The problem? There’s no consideration of the context in which learners will use the content.

Content dumping (credit: Nick Shackleton-Jones)


Learning design should start from the business’ or performance problem’s point of view. Before you touch any content, conduct out some analysis. And, as Nick says, you should be:

“…getting to know your audience, their ‘performance context’ and spotting the gaps—i.e. the points in their working day where there is an opportunity for you to help.”

Bite-size or resource-based learning helps busy people learn, but only if it fits into their busy days. It must be timely, relevant, and useful. If it’s not, well, it just piles up, un-eaten. The focus should be on what they need help doing.

This is why we love Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping; it focuses on the desired actions and performance gaps we must meet.

Pull or push?

Nick is a big fan of pull learning, where the audience will pull or use the content you provide when needed. They’ll probably only do so if it’s designed to be useful and supports daily performance—hence the diagram above.

Bite-size content can also be pushed, and sometimes learning has to be. But pushed learning should be performance- and action-orientated, too.

Why? Because a content-driven approach will just be what it says on the tin: “content.” Learning design and the encouragement of behavior change must start by getting under the audience’s skin and working out how best to move them from A to B.

If you want to serve up bite-size learning, think of it more like tapas, where customers order mini-dishes when they’re hungry—OR a smorgasbord of delights they work through with pleasure.

Just don’t dump a heap of bread on them.

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