When I was pursuing my Healthcare IT Certification as a Workflow Management and Training Specialist, one of the points that was frequently drilled into my head during multiple classes was what I like to call the Information Ideal: The Right Information presented at the Right Time. We talked about this during our coursework on clinical workflows and clinical technology, referencing that the best EHR systems and other supporting tech would ideally present information in this way. It was a recognition that, especially in the hectic environment of healthcare, presenting all of the information you have can be a hindrance to delivering the best care.
This same idea also came into the Training/Curriculum Development class; when delivering training, it’s better to deliver the right information at the right time, rather than more formalized, lecture-style courses where you bombard the learner with everything all at once. It’s a recognition that humans have a difficult time processing information that isn’t directly related to their lives or their jobs, and that perhaps training is better delivered in bite-sized chunks spaced out across a longer time frame. Needless to say this idea has been something of a revolution to the education establishment, much of which is built on the lecture-style, sit-in-your-seats style that tries to shove all of the information into your head at one time.
But there are signs that this is starting to change, at least in education in the business world. Take Udacity as a case in point: The technology online education company announced in November 2015 that it had raised $105 Million dollars, which elevated it to Unicorn status. (For those who don’t know, a Unicorn in the world of investing is a start-up company which has been valued at over $1 Billion.) Part of how the company is able to do this is through their revolutionary suite a Nanodegrees, programs designed to give you everything you need to know to be anything from an Android or iOS Developer to Data Analysis or Web Development. These are intensive programs, designed by the tech industry to essentially cut the BS and give you what you need to hit the ground running.
Another example of this revolution is Grovo, an L&D company which focuses on microlearning to deliver over 5,000 courses on everything from digital agency essentials to management and business soft skills. Recently I was able to chat with Alex Khurgin, Director of Learning at Grovo about the microlearning revolution, and why he is convinced that it is the future of education. Today I present Part One of our discussion, which has been edited for clarity.
Maggie: I noticed that your college degree is in Philosophy. Do you think that training directed you towards microlearning?
Alex: I feel that microlearing is inductive to some extent. There is a direct connection to the kinds of questions asked in philosophy and microlearning. What it (philosophy) has helped me do is hold nothing sacred: a lot of it is just fundamentally questioning things and asking very honest questions like “What is the purpose of X”? and “What are we really trying to do here”? Asking those gets you to some kind of learning conclusions like “What is the point of teaching someone a bunch of stuff if they aren’t going to do anything with it?” or “Do we need to use learning terminology at all?”. What is a lesson exactly? It’s something we’ve made up hundreds of years ago…do we need to use it at all, or can we build a platform around what people do organically in their daily lives?
Maggie: How did you first get interested in Microlearning?
Alex: Microlearning is the kind of acknowledgement that humans can’t focus and process a lot of out-of-focus material that isn’t related to what they are doing. That’s kind of a no-brainer, but that kind of idea leads to more egalitarian outcomes in education.
Maggie: Before you came to Grovo, I see you were with a company called Knewton. Did you champion microlearning there as well?
Alex: I got started a few months after college. Knewton is an adaptive learning company and I worked for them for two years. Adaptive learning is really neat, but my opinion on it has changed radically. How do you motivate people to learn? How do you create urgency around all kinds of learning at the point of need? How do you engage people once they’ve actually started to learn? How do you ensure what they are learning leads to benefits, not just an increase in knowledge, but to someone doing something better? At Grovo, we are trying to build the best learning product that has ever existed, and build something that is going to help people achieve their goals through learning. I think microlearning is a better way to address these issues. If it’s short and accessible at the point of need,you don’t need to deal with motivation necessarily. They are motivated because they need something right now.
Maggie: So how did microlearning begin at Grovo?
Alex: For about a year we were making relatively short content, about 2-5 minutes long. At the time we were creating mostly digital skills lessons. Several years ago, Facebook was rolling out a new privacy change where at the stroke of midnight your content and posts would be visible to anyone unless you changed your settings. It was a huge deal at the time. We created a video on how to address this issue; the video was 28 seconds long. Within a few days it had amassed several thousand hits without any marketing. Not only that, the comments on the video were very positive. So we looked at internal analytics and found that video lengths of around 30 seconds seemed to be a sweet spot; viewers would watch more videos on a certain subject and they would also get the post-video questions right.
Check back Wednesday for Part Two of my interview with Alex Khurgin, where we will discuss generational differences in learning, how Grovo delivers outstanding L&D for their customers and how microlearning can help build habits.