This is Part Two of my interview with Alex Khurgin, Director of Learning at Grovo. The interview was edited for clarity. To see the first part of the interview, check out Monday’s post The Right Information at the Right Time.
Maggie: Grovo focuses on 30 second or less videos, but other definitions of microlearning indicate lengths of less than 5 minutes, or even longer. Why did you choose the 30 seconds or less format?
Alex: All of our videos are somewhere between 30-90 seconds. The longest one we have is 144 seconds. One anecdotal thing is that if you send me a five minute YouTube video on my favorite thing in the world, I’m not going to watch it. I have to set it in my calendar. With microblogs and YouTube videos, if you look at the analytics there is a huge drop off in watches after the first 15 seconds. When you are thinking “How can I communicate something to someone, give them a resource that is adjustable, at the point of need, and related to to the action they want to perform?” a lot of time a 30 second video is all you need.
Microlearning could be something that is longer, but the most useful way is that it’s not about the short nuggets, you aren’t just taking a course and chopping it up into pieces. Microlearning about small, focused steps on the way to a larger goal. Sometimes that might be a 30 minute role play, but in that practice you are doing one thing. It’s as efficient as possible. I tell people it’s not like the micro in microscrope, its more like the micro in microeconomics, which isn’t only concerned with small transactions. When people argue about microlearning being efficient, it’s sort of like arguing that sentences can’t be used to write a novel because they are too small. All I can say to that is what are you talking about??
Maggie: Do you feel like there are subjects which are better suited towards being adapted into microlearning?
Alex: Digital focus at first made a lot of sense and we did a lot of screen grab videos to teach you how to use the products. Then we expanded formats, and now we have an in-house animation team and producers, and we have started branching into soft skills. We started out with digitally-related stuff like e-mail etiquette and such. In the past year we’ve been focusing on management and leadership, which has forced us to expand our thinking and formats. We’re really thinking about those different formats, getting more feedback, more practice, more coaching, things that are needed in management and leadership. You still need to get the feedback and the lessons are still in a microlearning format, but we’ve been expanding our thinking and coverage areas.
Maggie: A lot of research has found that Millennials in particular are very interested in keeping their skills fresh and in career development. Do you think this generational shift has been part of the reason that Grovo has been so successful?
Alex: Millennials have less tolerance for the status quo training, but everyone sees the value (in microlearning) once they experience it. Older generations are starting to consume just as much as younger ones, they are using a lot of the same stuff. I don’t think there’s much of a divide in terms of acceptance of microlearning, but for older folks they may be skeptical of it off of the bat. But once they experience it, it’s really the same for everyone.
We are looking at helping people develop behavior and habits. A lot of training with regard to soft skills treats them as if they are a series of tasks, but in order for a one-on-one to be useful you have to make it a habit. How can a learning platform make things a habit? Something like “Anytime anyone does well on my team I’m going to send them an e-mail.” I can understand that as a concept, but how do you make it a habit so you don’t have to think about it?
The reason we do microlearning is that learning is hard enough…and now you’re going to make it harder with inefficient content and an old learning platform? It makes your brain hurt! You have to acknowledge that it’s not enough to learn it, you have to develop it in to a behavior, which means practicing it.
For example, how long does it take to be a really good leader/manager? But in typical L&D we give people this two week course or workshop in leadership or management. But what does it really do for them? You get some people who are elite learners who will get a ton out of it, but those who aren’t elite learners won’t get enough out of it.
Maggie: Do you utilize any of the other popular L&D buzzwords in your microlearning content? For example things like Gamification or Scenario-Based Learning?
Alex: Yes to all of those, but not in the traditional sense. We are pretty committed to a goal based approach, so everything you see needs to be connected to one of your business goals like career or skill development. Given that your goals are in the product and you are using the resources to advance on your goals, there is a gamified element in there because we show your progress. The more you can see, the more motivated you are to go back to it. Any given employee is motivated to achieve their goals, whether its to make more money or get a promotion for example. If we can gamify around those goals, we give them intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Gamifying content itself can be a dead end…it takes a really long time to do it well, and given what people need to learn, you aren’t going to have the time to create and maintain it. But you can build gamification around the content to get people to engage with it more. The thing you will never get around how to intrinsically motivate people, and they aren’t intrinsically motivated around games.
To read the conclusion of my interview with Alex Khurgin of Grovo, check back Friday! We’ll be chatting about microlearning in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) business environment and how L&D will influence the future of business.