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Chicago, IL 60640
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NogginLabs was founded on the notion that custom e-learning design and development is the ultimate horizontal industry. Time and again, each new project, client, and industry proves it. The biggest advantage of the e-learning horizontal is cross-pollinating ideas from two wildly different domains. A restaurant service simulation for iPad may influence a high-fashion online retail challenge. E-learning for financial advisors in a bank could inspire a mobile outreach program for cancer survivors. This variety also keeps the creative folks at NogginLabs fresh. Fresh learning ideas and designs come from a set of constantly changing constraints.


Let's ban this e-learning buzzword

Jonathan Baude

We build custom e-learning, so we like to keep our ear to the ground. We like to know about current trends in the e-learning industry, so we know what our clients and our audiences expect. We pride ourselves on pushing the envelope and providing modern, innovative training experiences that engage learners.

But here's what you have to remember: Buzzwords don't mean that much. It's always exciting to hear about the newest thing. That new thing from yesterday? That's old news now, let's talk about the NEW new bastion of newness. Add in a catchy word or phrase that describes this new phenomenon, and it's hard to resist throwing it around authoritatively as the hottest new must-have in the industry, whether or not it even means anything. But buzzwords cheapen meaningful conversation and distract from real, important ideas.

So let's talk about one e-learning buzzword we should ban today: "nano-learning."

Nano-learning is based on the notion that for your audience to learn as effectively as possible, everything needs to be broken out into tiny segments. It often comprises self-contained and hyper-focused short modules that learners can experience quickly, ultimately combining these building blocks into larger concepts. 

And let's be clear: This is a totally fine concept. There are some situations when offering training in bite-sized, quickly digestible pieces is perfect for your audience. If you're training folks who are always on the go and can only afford to train for a few minutes at a time, this could be a great option. Or if the topic you're training on really is best understood as a series of small, discrete concepts threaded together. These are often the same kind of training programs that work well with a mobile platform. Mobile learning is another great example of a new technology that is perfectly suited for certain audiences and business needs—and totally wrong for others.

Don't get me wrong. The concept of nano-learning has its time and its place. What I think we need to watch out for is the idea that it's some sort of magic bullet. It's catchy, it sounds smart (it's got a Latin prefix and everything!), and it fits into the preconceived narrative that our attention spans are getting shorter every day. 

But I think it's time to reject that narrative. Sure, we live in the world of Vine and Snapchat, but we also live in the world of binge-watching. How can we simultaneously accuse people of having goldfish-like attention spans and also worry about them sitting on the couch, not moving, for 8 hours straight just to see what direction Frank Underwood will subtly roll his eyes in next?

I think the truth is more complicated. Technology is increasingly giving us the ability to find exactly what we want. From impressively niche communities to hyper-focused, narrowcast content, we're more able than ever to identify what it is we're looking for, seek it out, and enjoy it. If we keep finding more of what we want, we stay engaged. If we come across stuff that doesn't meet our needs or expectations, we're more likely to move on and keep looking.

That means the stakes are higher and the challenge is on to create truly engaging e-learning that captivates your learners from start to finish. That can happen for two minutes, or it can happen for two hours straight. Engaging, intuitive content that meets your learners where they are—that's what really makes a difference. So trust us: spend more time focusing on quality content, great writing, and innovative instructional design, and less time worrying about the latest string of buzzwords.