Archive for December 2012




There’s a buzz around micro-learning in training circles. A brief survey of the training-oriented discussion groups on Linked-in suggests that as with many au-courant terms, this one isn’t very well defined.

The basic idea is to break training up into very small, highly digestible “chunks” – but what this looks like in practice varies from making 5 minute videos available as part of a performance support tool to editing down a 4-hour(!) webinar to a one-hour one. There seem to be a group of people who regard lessons 15 minutes in length as the typical micro-learning object.

Of course, micro-lessons do not necessarily lead to learning! But the hope is that by requiring a minimal time commitment from learners, that there will be more uptake of the offered lessons. And perhaps that this learning will take place on non-company time, like the morning commute.

I’ve also seen micro-learning cited as a cost-containment strategy for training departments. I’m skeptical —  the work involved in assessing learner needs and structuring easily accessible platforms for information delivery doesn’t vary much with the size of an individual unit-of-training. Arguably, scheduling the delivery of numerous small lessons may be more complex that delivering longer training experiences.

It seems to me that there are two obvious places for small learning “snacks”

  1. In the performance support system. Workers looking up how to do something are grateful for nicely packaged job-aids which focus specifically on the task they are trying to do – and it’s awfully nice to have the more in depth treatment of the topic right at hand in case the small module raises more questions. Meeting the need for just in time/on demand training is rightly the function of the performance support system
  2. As reinforcement modules, following up on longer, more formal training experiences. Weaving the concepts presented as part of a training program into the daily workflow can be done with a nicely timed email to the trainees, offering a reminder of the content, and perhaps a bit of preparation for the next stage of training.

Where do you see micro-learning serving your organization?

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A Place to Stand

Joel Schectman at the CIO Journal blog at the Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Obama campaign used Salesforce to manage communications with its core constituency.

Schectman reports:The tool scoured messages for keywords such as “healthcare” or “education,” and displayed issues on a dashboard campaign staffers could look at to figure out what concerns or questions were surging in citizen correspondences with the campaign. The dashboard also allowed staffers to look at what issues were trending by state, city or town, allowing the campaign to adapt its ground game in real time, according to [Salesforce EVP Vivek] Kundra. Those insights could help staff in the field that had mobile versions of the dashboard. “

I find this development fascinating, partially for its creative use of a tool ostensibly designed for a somewhat different application (sales) and successfully applied to the campaign trail.

More importantly, it’s yet another instance of the “tools that build tools” which were foretold as part of the future back when I was a management grad student back at the dawn of the personal computer.

The quest for human understanding often begins with the search for “a place to stand” from which one can get a new perspective on the situation. Powerful computing tools put to this use produced immersive simulators like the CAVE at the University of Illinois back in the mid 90’s. Now even the CAVE runs on a desktop machine, and regular folks without special grant funding can buy into cloud services on even more powerful servers.

The power is there. Tools like Salesforce make it possible to assemble custom reports and dashboards which report the metrics that matter most to our organizations.

Are people in your organization mobilizing the latest tools for understanding your customers? Are the people who are doing it training others in their methods?

Does your training software give you “a place to stand” to see where your training efforts stand, and where needs may be emerging?

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