Bits of Fun: Adult Learning in Chunks

Rue Beignet Beignets


As you may have discerned, I love food. Especially fried food. And most especially beignets, which are like fry bread and powdered sugar got together and declared greatness. I will willingly do very bad things for beignets.

On a recent trip to New Orleans, my husband and I made it a quest to eat as many of these amazing pastries as possible. Which we thought would be tough, given that your typical order of beignets comes in three with a side of chicory coffee. We’d have to be those crazy people and order several plates. And so we did.

By plate two, we were stuffed. Just overcome with the goodness of fried bread. The other two orders had to be boxed up and carried around with us for the day. We actually debated passing on the Oysters Rockafeller at Antoine’s because we knew we still had beignets at the hotel. In short, we just had too much and didn’t know what to do with it.

Training adult learners, many times you find yourself in the same situation. You’ve usually got enormous amounts of content to share with your students and not enough space in which to share it in a way that it’ll really transfer into useful knowledge. And many times, the training that you’re passing on is crucial to the way that organization operates. Whether it’s on-boarding new employees manning a front desk at a hotel, IT professionals learning about a new privacy control for the cloud, or adding to the toolkit of sales tactics for your business development team, giving them the knowledge to do their jobs and ultimately make your business more successful is incredibly important.

Here are five easy ways to help chunk your adult learning up and still get to eat all of your beignets

1) Get organized
Use a quarterly or annual training calendar that helps you identify where you’re delivering and what areas you can continue to capitalize on. If your organization is large and matrixed, you might also keep a 6 month planning calendar to help see what other departments are up to as well as keep the training process transparent for both employees and supervisors who want to see progress, but may not know when to expect results

2) Follow the mini-skirt rule
I had a speech teacher who thought this was the funniest saying ever, but it still rings true: Keep your content long enough to cover the subject and short enough to keep your learner’s attention. Current adult learner theory says this ranges 10-20 minutes depending on your subject matter

3) Deliver it in multiple channels
Channel delivery isn’t just for marketing. You have in person, on demand, webinars, teleseminars, social streams like Facebook, Twitter, collaborative learning spots where people learn from each other to reinforce concepts from “class” with wikis and knowledge ecosystems like Blackboard, Freestone, or Higher Logic and Small World Labs. No matter your student’s learning style or availability, you can break it up, deliver it, and assess understanding in a variety of ways.

4) Keep it interactive
Interactivity isn’t just for millenials. We all like to engage in what we’re doing as it turns learning something new or hearing something again into a sandbox of ideas rather than a path that leads one way. We still want you to get the concept absolutely, but think outside of the box so that your participants aren’t just sitting in a room, laid out lecture style, and droning off

5) Measure, measure, measure
Even if you aren’t designing your trainings as path-based, you should still recognize achievement. Whether this is in the form of achieving a certificate, a CEU, a grade, or a high-five for writing something on a post-it note and participating in a discussion, people like to know, yay! you did something. It also gives you something to report back and show how far in any direction the learner has gone and where new opportunities for your organization’s leadership/management pipeline might appear, or on the flip side, opportunities for extra attention to intervene might be needed

We’re faced with a tremendous amount of information each day, with statistics like 90% of all data in the world was created in the last two years or that the average adult consumes nearly 12 hours of new information a day. Remember to chunk training up and keep the learning experience one of continuous goals and milestones, not just a one day information overload.

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