Why bite-sized elearning is important (3 reasons)

bite-sized elearning

Bite-sized elearning modules are small, self-contained elearning information nuggets. They typically range in duration from 1 to 15 minutes and are usually focused on one or two tightly defined learning objectives. This is in contrast to more conventional elearning modules, which can take between 30 and 60 minutes (or longer) to consume and have a wider range of objectives.

Bite-sized elearning is gaining in popularity. And it isn’t something the theorists are forcing on us! One study from the Rapid Learning Institute showed that 94 percent of learners prefer modules less than 10 minutes in duration (particularly for soft-skill topics), and 65 percent said most elearning modules contain too much information.

In addition to general learner preference for bite-sized learning, here are three good reasons to consider adopting it.

1. It takes less time to consume and is more flexible

Increasingly, employers are squeezing training into gaps in employees’ schedules, rather than allocating extended blocks of study time. Elearning pieces that are designed to be meaningful in a short session (10-15 minutes) fit more easily into this model.

A great example of this is the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (JJVC) Eye Care Practitioners course, built using Elucidat’s elearning authoring tool. This course contains a number of accredited 10-minute nuggets, each one allowing time-poor eye care professionals to accumulate Continuing Education and Training (CET) points necessary for their ongoing professional registration.


Bite-sized nuggets also tend to be better than larger modules for just-in-time support. For example, if an employee needs a refresher on a seldom-used software feature, they probably want it immediately. In this case it’s more meaningful and convenient for the employee to watch a simple 2-minute video on that one feature rather than wading through a 60-minute module that talks about all of the software features.

Generally speaking, the design of larger, monolithic courses makes assumptions about how and why learners access and navigate them — or worse, imposes how the learners must do these things. In contrast, bite-sized nuggets can be combined and consumed in flexible ways. For example, one learner can access nuggets A, C and D, and another can access C, B and A, depending on their preferences and immediate needs. Learners only have to work through the topics (nuggets) that are meaningful to them, and they can access them in the order that makes the most sense for their needs.

2. Shorter sessions suit modern learners

One report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) tells us that millennials (those born between 1980 and up to the late 1990s) already form 25 percent of the U.S. workforce, and by 2020 will form 50 percent of the world’s workforce.

Mellennials’ brains aren’t different from the generations who went before them, but millennials do have different expectations of how their media is served up and the contexts in which they consume it. For example, millennials have never known life without (relatively) quick Internet, instant information retrieval and media on demand. They have always been connected with their social circle 24/7 and do most things with at least one Internet-connected screen in front of them.

This means that there’s always something vying for a millennials attention, and if their current task is taking too long or doesn’t actively engage them, they’ll soon move on to something else. Millennials are sometimes referred to as the Instant Gratification Generation. Maybe that’s an unfair title, but as we all adopt the technology and practices that millennials take for granted, everyone will increasingly exhibit these traits. For this reason, short, sharp, targeted learning modules suit the modern learner.

Related: 5 ideas to help you motivate learners in 2016

Even under the best circumstances, you can only expect people to concentrate for about 20 minutes. Like a muscle, a brain that is called upon to work hard for longer than this without a break will start to tire, struggling to transfer anything to long-term memory. Interesting work by Dr. Paul Kelley has shown that intense 20-minute bursts of study separated by 10-minute breaks can yield better long-term memory retention than longer, continuous periods of study.

3. Demand for mobile learning is growing

We know that mobile learning is becoming more important as devices become more powerful and more pervasive in the workplace. The reality is, however, that if people are on the go or are reviewing learning material on small screens, they’ll be less able to watch or focus for extended periods of time — no matter how keen a learner they are! Imagine the difficulty of concentrating on a lesson on a smartphone for 40 minutes while being jostled on the morning commuter train. The obvious solution is to break modules into smaller, more meaningful chunks.

But that doesn’t mean the nuggets can’t tackle sophisticated issues or be absorbing. To Lie or Not To Lie is an excellent example of an Open University bite-sized nugget that tackles a deep subject in an engaging way. This would only take a learner around 15 minutes to complete, and it is responsive — that is, it adapts and renders well on desktop, tablet and smartphone screens.


In conclusion

The three arguments for bite-sized learning presented here are very compelling from a learner’s point of view. But as a training provider, the good news is that learning nuggets are also quicker to produce and easier to maintain than larger modules!

Have you created, viewed or participated in any bite-sized elearning modules? Share your experience in the comments section below.

Steve Penfold

Steve Penfold

Steve Penfold is the Chief Executive of Elucidat. He helps large companies and training providers speed up and simplify their elearning authoring.
Steve Penfold
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