People want to learn. Even though we have 24 hour access to information from the web, alerts, texts and the social media, it does mean that we are learning from it, or even some of it. So despite the information overload most of us feel, how do we continue to learn? The 760,000 people from over 215 countries enrolled in one of my MOOCs (free on Coursera) provided an answer.
The key is dosage and convenience. Traditional learning activities and even corporate training is often organized round “Just In Case” learning – you will cover topics in your training or education in case you need it at some point in the future. The problem is that the cerebral cortex dump rate is HUGE! One study showed that the half-life of knowledge from a required accounting course in a top 20 ranked MBA program in the US was 6 ½ weeks!
The pharmaceutical industry spends billions in research to determine the best way to make a particular drug available to our body when and where it is needed. This suggests that “Just in Time” learning is more appropriate than “Just In Case” learning. It also suggests that we should pay attention to the duration or length of the learning activity.
A single Mother and hospital administrator enrolled in my Inspiring Leadership MOOC emailed me. She said she loves her job and her two children. But at the end of the work day, she prepares dinner, makes sure her children have completed their homework, chats with them and then prepares them for bed. By the time that is all over, she has between 11:00 PM and 11:30 PM to learn something before she needs to sleep and start the cycle again tomorrow. The 11 minute video in each module of the MOOC, with an exercise for reflection, discussion questions and possibly a practical reading of relevance, is perfect for her. She thanked us profusely for helping her to feel like she is moving ahead in learning while doing her job and being a good Mother!
Convenience means that she can access the video, reading, exercise and discussion questions with only her computer or tablet at home, with her wifi connection. She can fit it into her busy day. She does not have to add to her stress by driving to a location or getting day care for her children. She does not have to take time off from work!
Of course, all this is dependent on her wanting to learn something specifically. Intentionality and purpose is essential to shift through the noise around us. But finding learning opportunities suited to your dosage and convenience may take some research. For providers, consider breaking set and packaging the learning in smaller bites – learning tapas!