Using Learning Design to Help Combat Busyness

We’re all so busy, right? Do you encounter anyone in today’s world who admits to having free time? It’s almost like you’re shunned if you do. Somehow busyness has become not just a way of life, but a badge of honor!

There are all kinds of studies that tell us to refrain from multitasking. Eric Barker, a blogger, reports that “when people do two cognitive tasks at once, their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an 8-year-old.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking to lower my intelligence capacity. But if you’re anything like me, it’s incredibly difficult not to fall prey to this mentality.

If this is the mindset prevalent in corporate America, how do we as instructional designers expect anyone to truly invest time in learning? The key is not only giving people tools they can access when they need it, but making sure the learning is:

  • Fast, with at-your-fingertips support
  • Specific, tactile training and not high concept or too general
  • Bite-sized, with easily digestible and actionable information

After all, people WANT to learn but simply lack TIME and READY ACCESS to information and training that could help them perform better on the job. You may have heard the term “microlibrary.” In my world, this concept is a reality. It allows us to create various types of learning assets to allow people to focus on enhancing skills in conjunction with the 50 million other responsibilities they have. Here are a few examples of assets we’re currently building:

  • A short 3-minute podcast on how best to prioritize prospective customers that includes a job aid
  • An activity to use as part of a department meeting to practice tailoring C-level sales conversations
  • A 5-minute eLearning that provides a simple strategy for managing time

Within all of these learning assets, the key is to focus learning on one objective to narrow the focus. Remember that the whole purpose is to create fast, specific, and bite-sized learning making it feasible for learners to master in the time they are able to allot.

How to Design Analogies for eLearning

Analogies are a powerful way to explain “unknown” topics by linking them to what the learners already know. Since learning is really about the transformation of experience into knowledge, a component of this process has to do with what is called analogical reasoning.

When a learner grasps new concepts with analogies, it’s like putting their ability to learn on steroids. This is because analogies provide the shortcut to understanding.

Let’s say you are designing an eLearning module about sleep apnea. What would be the analogy you would use to explain what happens during sleep apnea? Virend Somers, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, describes that sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway (respiratory tract) collapses during sleep. He likens this process to sucking on a “wet paper straw.” To visualize this concept, check out this short sleep apnea video, where you can see how the wet paper straw analogy can be applied. The video does not mention of a wet paper straw, but this is where you come in as an instructional designer to help the learner make the connection between the collapse of the upper airway (shown in the video) to the concept of sucking on a wet paper straw.

See how analogies can be used? It’s a powerful learning technique. For more on analogies, visit my Slideshare presentation below to discover how to use analogies in eLearning. Would love to hear about some of your favorite analogies in the comment box below.