RLI’s Stephen Meyer at the ASTD Conference: Bite-size learning is incomplete by design

In his presentation at the ASTD 2014 International Conference, Rapid Learning Institute CEO Stephen Meyer challenged conventional approaches to e-learning design and suggested that instructional designers need a new approach for a new medium.

“Traditional instructional design builds courses that are linear, logical and complete,” Meyer said after the conference. “In my talk, I proposed a different approach. Instead of trying to cover everything, create e-learning modules that are short, focused on a single concept, and intentionally incomplete.”

“I didn’t know how that message would play to a room of experienced trainers and instructional designers. But the response was immediate and positive. Once you’re freed of the obligation to be complete, you have the power to create e-learning that’s engaging, transformative and aligned with the way people consume information today.”

Meyer gave his talk, “Brief is Beautiful: Bite Size Content and the New e-Learning,” to an overflow audience at the ASTD International Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C. “It was a surprising turnout for a first-time speaker on a Sunday afternoon,” he said. “It really shows how intensely interested people are in finding ways to make e-learning relevant in a world of YouTube, smartphones, Google and short attention spans.”

Meyer’s talk focused on an approach he calls “thin slicing.” In psychology, the term refers to the brain’s ability to draw surprisingly accurate conclusions from very limited information. Applied to training, thin slicing is about isolating thin slices of learning and delivering powerful insights from a single bite-size concept. Instead of starting big, it starts small. A short, incomplete slice of learning can deliver a powerful “aha” and create behavior change more effectively than a longer module that tries to cover too much, Meyer argues.

E-learning “can only succeed if we get learners’ attention with compelling content, make sure they stick around, and make them feel a sense of urgency to act on what they learned,” said Meyer. ”E-learning is video, and learners have specific expectations when watching online video – they want short bursts of disjointed and engaging content.”

Rapid Learning Institute (RLI) provides online training and talent development tools for businesses, government agencies, nonprofits and educational institutions in the areas of sales, leadership and management, human resources, employment law compliance, and workplace safety. RLI’s approach is founded on three core principles: 1) Rapid Learning. Workplace training should be delivered in short bursts – just six to 10 minutes at a time. Today’s multi-tasking workforce has neither the time nor the attention span for traditional lengthy training formats. 2) Single-Concept Learning. People learn best when training is focused on a narrow concept where learning goals are clearly defined. When training is delivered in small packets, the brain can easily absorb, remember and apply what it learns. 3) Research-Based Learning. Training is most powerful when it’s grounded in verifiable research. When learners see training as credible, they’re more likely to translate the learning into on-the-job behavior. RLI’s signature six to 10 minute modules, called Quick Takes, incorporate these three ideas into unique training programs that get results.

Based in Greater Philadelphia, RLI is an operating division of Business 21 Publishing.

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