After years of experience and expertise in creating computer-based training courses (CBTs), instructing virtually and serving as an eLearning project manager, I finally realize something – I don’t like reading text. While reviewing an eLearning course – containing five lessons with over 50 slides each – I realized many students would not remember most of what they were reading. It was literally TMI (too much information).
That’s when I started researching the world of microlearning, which had been largely untapped at my agency. I’d heard of it before, in passing, at eLearning conferences and sporadically in a few articles across the Web. It was almost as if it were a mythological term buried deep in an underground pit. While it’s fun to say and has a ring to it, I feel it’s been largely underutilized as a training technique.
Private Learning vs Workplace Training
Whenever I make a presentation about microlearning videos, I ask my audience where they go, outside of work, to learn something new. Most of the responses are YouTube and Google Videos. They’re looking for instructions on things such as making a new recipe, replacing their vehicle’s air filter or installing chain link fencing.
One day, I found my 14-year-old son watching a video on his phone with a nearly disassembled laptop in front of him. I don’t know about you, but taking apart a laptop is no easy feat. When I asked him why he was tearing it apart, he simply explained that he was replacing a dead watch battery inside, like it wasn’t a big deal. Then using the video, he reassembled the laptop all on his own.
When we have a need and desire to learn something new, we will search out online videos where we can view the steps, pause the video, do the steps and keep playing and doing until we’ve completed the task at hand.
However, at work, we are sometimes “voluntold” to attend a training that we don’t need but must take because “it’s the only time it’s offered.” Then, other information bombards us and we start to quickly forget the training.
Also, formal training is typically a one-and-done event. Meaning that you attend a classroom course one time, or you launch an eLearning course only once. Rarely, if ever, does anyone relaunch a completed eLearning course, or ask their instructor to reteach them because too much time has passed.
How many of you have ever left a new-hire training course and said, “Hurray, I’m now an expert!?” No one. But why?
Food & Knowledge
We can liken the way the human brain absorbs knowledge to the way we consume food. For instance, suppose I gave you a cheesecake and expected you to eat the entire thing in one sitting. Could you do it? Possibly, assuming you like cheesecake, but you’d certainly not feel well afterward. It would also be extremely unhealthy.
Our brains are remarkably similar – they shut down with too much information.
According to Dr. Joanne Cantor, “Having too much information is like flooding your brain’s engine. You can’t start your car without gas, but your engine needs the right ratio of gasoline to air or the spark plugs won’t ignite.”
I like to compare this with the old adage of trying to drink from a firehose. It is not something that seems fun or useful.
Microlearning Videos (AKA SHOTs)
For seven years, I’ve been creating short, narrated videos on commonly used systems or applications such as Skype for Business, WebEx, leadership videos, MyEPP, ConcurGov and recently, videos on Paid Parental Leave and Zoom for Government. I created an acronym for the program – Self-Help Online Tutorials (SHOTs).
Then, I helped create a video library where the videos are launchable by all of our 80,000+ employees. We’ve received positive feedback on how simple they are to access and follow. The program won the Federal Government Distance Learning Association’s (FGDLA) 5-Star Award in November 2018.
Over the years, the SHOTs program has grown into a servicewide initiative with over 520 videos and 362,000 views. My team are creating SHOTs full-time for our Human Capital Office (HCO), and lead a SHOTs community of practice (CoP). We also offer virtual trainings so others can create videos for their own programs or areas.
Typically, SHOTs videos are:
- Short (usually three minutes or less, with hyperlinks to additional resources, if needed)
- Demonstrations (how-to) or presentations (information sharing)
- One topic, action or process per video
- Need to know only (excludes nice to know)
Future Microlearning Video Articles
I invite you to join me on how microlearning videos (SHOTs) became a success with these upcoming articles:
- Instructional Design – Graphics Say a Thousand Words
- Transferring Knowledge with Microlearning Videos
- 4 Key Benefits of Microlearning Videos
- Microlearning Videos – Less is More
- Key Benefits of Narration in Microlearning Videos
- And much more!
I hope you’ll see how your agency can benefit from incorporating Microlearning videos to help your employees learn just-in-time, anytime.
If you’d like to view an example of what one of my demonstration-based videos look like, please click to launch the IRS’ Withholding Estimator Tool video.
Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected] And to read more from our Winter 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort.
Kelly Barrett has worked for the IRS for over 22 years, starting as a Data Entry Transcriber and worked his way up to a Human Resources Education and Knowledge Management Specialist. Kelly has over 12 years of training project management experience with expertise in eLearning course development and is a certified Instructional Designer (ISD) and Online Training Professional (COTP).
Seven years ago, Kelly began researching MicroLearning Videos and how they can increase retention of training, and using his Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting, he started a program called Self-Help Online Tutorials (SHOTs). He has since grown the program to an enterprise-wide initiative with over 500 SHOTs videos for all 80,000+ IRS employees to view, anytime they need to.
Kelly met his wife while working in Data Entry at the IRS and now has two children. He also is the head volleyball coach for the local Jr High School and coaches his daughter’s Club Volleyball team. Kelly and his wife enjoy cooking and even published their own cookbook with over 190 recipes and are currently working on their second cookbook.