Mealtimes used to be full-blown affairs, where you took the time to cook a large meal, sit down with your family, and eat at a leisurely pace. To many, this is considered the norm, and for others it’s something to strive for.
But in today’s busy world, convenience and personalization for the people eating often wins. For example, grazing, or eating small amounts of food here and there as time allows (or as hunger demands!), has increasingly become a way of life for many who prefer it to sitting down for one big meal.
It turns out we can also graze with learning. Traditionally, learning through a structured program at a university has been seen as requiring a major time commitment or intense, singular focus, which doesn’t work for everyone. Even for those who enroll in part-time programs or a single course, individual class sessions typically last at least a half hour to a couple of hours or more.
In contrast, bite-sized learning consists of very short “nuggets” of information taught through various types of media, such as videos, audio files, infographics, or printed text. These nuggets tend to range from a single minute to the 15-minute mark (and even that can be considered long).
Also appealing to today’s time-strapped students? Microlearning. This usually takes the shape of formal but relatively small programs of study where you can earn credits toward individual badges and, in some cases, a traditional degree. While some microlearning options can be as long as a standard course, the overall program is much shorter than a full degree.
While full-time college students may be able to devote hours a day to their education, that’s not always feasible. Working employees make up a large segment of people who also wish to learn, but they are extremely busy. The average employee checks their email 36 times an hour and gets interrupted 56 times throughout the day. They also only have about 20 minutes a week, or 1% of their time, to set aside for learning. It’s only natural, then, that they would prefer to graze for 5 or 10 minutes instead of sitting down to a full meal for an hour.
Obviously, traditional learning isn’t about to disappear anytime soon, as it is still seen as foundational. But with technological disruption, automation, and the growth of lifelong learning, people will need to continually reskill throughout their lives, and earning a degree simply isn’t enough. People must be able to access learning in an online format so they can learn on their own terms and in a way that suits their lifestyle and learning preferences.
There’s no shortage of people who want to learn — if the circumstances are right — and reports show it can help improve employee retention. An overwhelming 94% of employees surveyed in LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report stated they would stay with a company if it simply invested in their continuous learning.
Employees have an easier time taking advantage of such opportunities if they include bite-sized learning options. And for those who wonder if bite-sized learning can be as effective as traditional learning, the good news is that the research so far suggests it’s not only equally effective but even more effective.
This type of learning fulfills the needs of busy adults with highly digital, mobile lifestyles who would welcome chances to learn from short but engaging bursts of educational content during their commute to and from work, on lunches and breaks, or on evenings and weekends.
For working adults who wish to further their learning, this is an exciting time, and there is much to anticipate. Increased market demand will inevitably lead to more bite-sized learning and microlearning opportunities that can be used as stand-alone paths to upskill or reskill or to supplement a degree, offering everyone the opportunity to grow in new ways.