October 06, 2017
SPEED TO KNOWLEDGE: The Curious Roots of Micro-Learning

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Being the first to come up with a good idea does not always make the path to success easy. In fact, often, it's quite the opposite.

For example, the idea of micro-learning may be all the rage these days, but it wasn't always that way. In fact, the company that created the first micro learning programs, AthenaOnline, was kicked out of quite a few offices for even proposing the idea.

The idea of micro-learning -- bite-sized bits of knowledge that are easy to digest and understand -- has been around for ages. It encompasses everything from viewing a short video to reading an article to taking a short quiz. Micro-learning, however, was never a form of enterprise learning until the visionaries at AthenaOnline released its MyQuickCoach application in 1999.

Priot to that, in 1994, Athena had released a number of award-winning, computer-based training programs called The New Leader Series -- an idea inspired by popular game Myst, that created a "learning village" allowing users to explore what they wanted to learn at their own pace. Players would meet experts in various areas of the village and, depending on what they accomplished in the game, new areas to explore would open up. It was one of the first examples of gamification to hit the field of organizational learning.

profilepic.jpg As loved as these programs were, however, Jon Peters, AthenaOnline's Founder, soon noticed a surprising phenomenon. "As we began to repurpose the programs for the internet," said Jon, "we saw a huge number of people dropping out. Upon interviewing our customers, we discovered that people much preferred to approach learning in small chunks -- trying to fit what they could into their busy day."

Seeing a trend forming, Jon and his team made the move to create the QuickCoach concept -- short, video-based modules that people could absorb in 5 minutes or less.

Launching their first programs, in 1999, was no easy task. Remember, this was years before YouTube. Most companies were just beginning to think about moving their internal classes to computer-based learning. Indeed, Athena was told by a number of self-claimed OD savants that "video would never take off on the internet" and that "nobody could possibly learn anything in only five minutes."

It took years for Athena's ideas to take hold, but they kept at it.

As a new generation of managers entered the workplace -- a generation used to YouTube and bite-sized interactions of all kinds -- Athena's ideas began to take hold. (And Idea Champions, for one, is glad they did.)

"Sometimes," explains Jon Peters, "you just have to believe in yourself and your vision, even when nobody else does. What I learned, and am still learning, is that while seeking input from others is always good thing, it's not the only compass of success. Sometimes you just need to believe yourself and persevere."

PS: If you want to know the impact that AthenaOnline's micro-learning has had in organizations, click here to download an article about the University of Iowa where elearning usage increased by a whopping 800%.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What "ahead of its time" project of yours, going more slowly than you imagined, do you need to double down on? And what is your next step

Free weekly micro-lessons from AthenaOnline
Yours truly on MyQuickCoach

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at October 6, 2017 08:12 AM

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