In my last article I discussed a goal-based approach to evaluating current training for microlearning opportunities. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, in that article I provided the definition of microlearning from the book I wrote with Karl Kapp (Microlearning: Short and Sweet). I highlighted four purposes microlearning can play in a larger learning framework, and I provided a focused example related to converting an entire privacy compliance training module to microlearning.
What I couldn’t cover was what happens after identification of the eLearning for conversion; that's the next step. It’s easy to just require that the microlearning piece is going to be “the same (as the original training), but smaller,” but that doesn’t mean that you have all the essentials you will need to get the job done: time, talent, and resources.
So I will pick up the process in this article by using the premise that you have identified training you are going to convert to microlearning. I will also presume that time was spent in discussing what the microlearning product(s) will focus on (the objective) and how they will engage the participant.
It would be easy to just move on at this point to actual conversion, but before you begin any training initiative you will surely discuss those essential project aspects (time, talent, and resources). Not only that, but ideally you will take those into consideration for all phases of the project: pre-production, production, and post-production. It doesn’t always happen, but we know it helps to start the project off on the right foot. The same holds true for microlearning.
Not all situations with training development need this conversation, but microlearning may be a new approach for you and your organization so it’s important to address for project success. In this article I will analyze two common combinations of time, talent, and resources. Each of these can take your approach to your new microlearning initiative in a different direction. I will contextualize each into one of the three phases of training development: pre-production, production, and post-production.
Just to be clear, let’s make sure we are all grounded on how I am using terms.
Time, talent, resources
You don’t need much definition here, but there is always debate around time being a resource, and it’s distinct and critical enough to break out on its own. Let’s start there so you can gain that insight.
- Time—Time is associated to everything, including the amount there is to complete the project, the planning of the project, how long it will take to actually develop the products, and so on. This also includes planning, analysis, design, execution, etc. It’s not just about the time in developing the product, it’s all time-factored. Even the evaluation that happens three months down the road!
- Talent—Again, it seems easy enough for the person or team creating the microlearning product. Sure, but did you factor the SME, the folks in IT, perhaps a vendor, or even the stakeholders? The term talent gets broadened in this sense to include anyone that needs to buy-in, assist with, or is responsible for ensuring the microlearning initiative is a success. (You know, like Bob from marketing who handles all company email distros.)
- Resources—Money! Yes, money, always money, but there are also servers and software and systems, etc. Even pre-developed content is a resource! Microlearning doesn’t have less resources because it’s a more targeted way of designing training; it still needs resources like any other training initiative.
Training development process
Though it’s quite common to see the ADDIE approach (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation) used, I encourage broader thinking to the overall process of training development—microlearning or not. This three-phase approach still captures the essence of ADDIE, but neatly folds in all of the more project-based tasks that accompany the work of developing training.
- Pre-production—This includes everything from those first conversations about what training do you have that can be converted (or created new) to selecting and planning the project.
- Production—This is the period in which the microlearning product is developed and approved.
- Post-production—Starts when you queue up the microlearning product(s) for distribution and use. It doesn’t end there though; it continues with evaluation, maintenance, and sustainment plans.
With these terms and explanations in mind, let’s take a look at the first combination: time and talent with a chaser of resources in the pre-production phase. How can you make sure that you are comprehensively considering the needs of your project?
Time and talent and a challenge to the resources—new videos from old
In this scenario your organization did a great job using my first article to determine that some previously created video-based training would be converted to microlearning. Five performance outcomes were established from review of the topics in the training. A decision was made to stay with video and complete the project in three months.
Going back and editing the content of the videos down is something that your organization can easily handle since it originated the product. Sounds pretty logical to me! However, here is what was not considered during pre-production:
- The videos are sequenced content; meaning that each video is a building block for the next video. Microlearning is about singular objectives and outcomes. The outcomes for this training are tied directly to completing all the videos. Time is needed to analyze the content to identify what parts of the videos align to the five performance outcomes.
- The purpose of the videos was more technical in nature. The new focus will be less on the technical aspects and more geared towards how these technical aspects support performance. Your training staff is good at what they do: writing technically. However, talent in writing to gain attention, to engage the participant, or to motivate is necessary.
Your organization now needs to determine if the current talent can do the work to revamp the videos, and if they can do it in the time allotted. It frankly reads as if the project needs all new video because the writing within is technical (and maybe dry).
We could look at resources now and realize that with the need for all new video, we are now engaging more talent and equipment, which also means more time. Of course, this also means more money. Let’s stop here; you are seeing how, without realizing it, your microlearning initiative may have mushroomed into something feeling pretty macro from a project perspective.
Time and resources and a need for more talent—old eLearning to video
If you recall, in the last article this was what we identified in the end: an eLearning course with page-turner content that would be converted to video. In this combination, we can play off the scenario above and realize that we need more time to do video. Also, it may be challenging for our talent to write for video, since although they are technically competent, they are not good scriptwriters.
In general, setting up and developing pieces that include video are going to take more time in planning, producing, and delivering than a basic eLearning page-turner. There are just more variables. The scenarios necessitate locations, people (to produce video and to act in video), recording equipment, scripts, and so on.
Sure sounds like we started dipping into resources with the last aspects, but we have even more to consider, especially from the post-production side. For example, we are not sure if our platform for distributing our eLearning can handle independent video, and we are not sure of the capacity of users on the server pulling that video. Other items we are thinking about from the evaluative perspective are what kind of data we can collect on the use and playback of the video, and if our learning platform can do that versus an eLearning piece.
Also, we started to consider how we would approach communicating these new learning opportunities. They were not being required at this point and we didn’t want to make them available all at once, we wanted to distribute the delivery. Now there is more talent needed!
Though talent has a focus here, the more resounding problem is time to do it all and having the right resources and enough resources (ahem, money)!
Can we just convert it now?
Yes, absolutely! Go forth and convert! These scenarios and conversations are not meant to scare you off but to support your excitement in incorporating this new learning approach to the current repertoire of educational products. But we typically do one of two things—we oversimplify, or we over-analyze new initiatives. The scenarios above cut through both, providing a middle ground to examine how to balance the dynamics of each as part of decision-making and project planning. I want success for you as much as you and your organization want it. I hope these two articles have given you either the confidence to continue your endeavor or an actionable starting point with a simple process to get going!