What's driving that trend? Khan Academy, which has made this form of learning popular (and effective) in public education; and TED videos, which are wildly popular among those looking for short, inspirational bursts of learning. TED is taking it a bit further by offering a new format that's even shorter than its traditional 18-minute presentations.
Given the popularity of these new formats, trainers and learning professionals should ask themselves what they can learn from these TED-style videos and Khan Academy-style tutorials and how they can better provide learning experiences and relevant content to their employees and students.
Here are a few key takeaways:
When you first look at the Khan Academy website, you see a long list of topics that all look like a math nightmare from sophomore year. You might wonder what relevance this has to teaching leadership classes, or product training, or answering CRM questions. But think about all those smaller tasks you teach, or the after-training questions you typically answer. Stuff like, "How do I find my notes from a phone call?" or "What's the process for submitting a new job requisition for my team?"
Questions like these occur every day in our organization, even if we already have very good training programs. So, to address these questions, why not create short, casual, and fun tutorials that explain these everyday processes? That way, people can watch the tutorials whenever they want, and only watch the ones they need, when they need them. Yes, I know, this sounds a lot like performance support, but I say it's different in the sense that these tutorials can be casual, fun, and engaging videos rather than boring PDF job aids.
There are two things you need to do to prepare for setting up your own self-paced tutorials. First, you need to create a place to host the tutorials. This can be your existing intranet, an LMS, or even a password-protected Wiki or blog. The site does not have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler the better. Take a look at the Khan Academy site, which is nothing more than a list of links to videos that are titled specifically to the topic covered. It's easy to scroll down the page to find the topic you want.
Secondly, you need to come up with a list of relevant topics. When it comes to selecting topics, be clear about the specific task covered and use language natural to the task. For example, the subject should not be, "How to Use the Notes Tab." The subject and title of the tutorial should be, "How to Write Effective Notes to Keep Track of Client Communications." Start with subjects people have a lot of questions about.
Examples of topics that could be useful in many organizations include:
This is just a list of ideas to get your started. The point is, people just want to learn what they need to get the job done. Oftentimes, a training class isn't necessary. However, sometimes a short, targeted tutorial is just what the doctor ordered to get people in your organization off and running on an important task. The beautiful thing about creating self-paced tutorials is that compared to creating traditional e-learning modules, self-paced tutorials can be done quickly, and with steady persistence in a matter of a few weeks, you could you have dozens of useful tutorials on your Intranet that employees can start using. That seems to me a good use of our time and a great way to provide value to the organizations we support.
Bill Cushard, Director of Training and Development at Allonhill, is a learning leader with more than 12 years of experience in training and performance improvement at companies such as E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.
Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user nojhan.