Nano learning is an up-and-coming trend in the education, learning and development, and training industries. It is a great way of delivering content in small, bite-sized chunks to make it easier for learners to absorb and retain the information.
The concept is familiar, right? The idea of breaking learning down into smaller chunks to make them more digestible for the learner is the foundation of lots of learning models. The nano learning model, like the bite-size and micro learning models, is based on the idea that smaller bits of information are easier to process and remember than larger chunks. Nano learning has been gaining attention recently because it is the next step in a progression of learning models designed to fit the ever-shortening attention spans of learners. It is believed to help improve learning outcomes and reduce the amount of time needed to acquire knowledge, which follows the widely recognised Pareto principle of 20% of efforts bring 80% of results.
What is involved in nano learning?
Nano learning is the natural evolution of bitesize learning. Like other forms of micro-learning, nano learning is not intended as a replacement for eLearning, but as complimentary to it. Where the bitesize model involves chunking learning into manageable touchpoints that typically have only one learning objective per ‘bite’, the nano learning model takes the single-objective small chunk methodology and condenses it into an even smaller touchpoint that, when joined with other nano touchpoints, creates a larger picture of learning.
You can look at nano learning as a new branch of connectivism; educating a learner through a collection of nodes that form a network of knowledge on a specific topic or course. The nodes are often lessons on individual learning objectives. The network is the bigger picture; the sum of all that is created through each node. Nano learning typically makes use of short videos, posters, infographics, and other media to deliver content in an engaging and efficient way.
A driving force behind nano learning is to avoid becoming irrelevant; we must capture the learner’s attention swiftly as it is essential to move away from the realm of lengthy training courses. Even microlearning and bite-sized learning are becoming less and less desirable to learners because they require more time, focus, and more effort to retain the information afterwards.
How is nano learning different to bitesize learning?
Nano learning differs from bitesize learning in two main ways:
- Focus on learner attention span – nano learning recognises that the average attention span is much shorter than you think. To work with this, nano learning seeks to create content that delivers the required learning objective in, ideally, less than 2 minutes.
- Approach to the format of the lesson – nano learning also must adapt and evolve in its format to match this shorter attention span. When following a single flow of learning focused on one learning outcome at a time, nano learning leverages clear calls to action to ensure immediate results.
Everyday examples of nano learning:
We are surrounded by small pieces of learning, little bites of information that infiltrate our minds and stick with us. Radio adverts, posters in bus shelters, even memes, can be considered nano learning. If you can retain it, you have learned something. It is the retention of information that is vital in the development of nano learning, with spaced learning playing a large part in this new model which fully embraces the ‘forgetting curve’ hypothesis developed by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885.
Here are some everyday examples you may not have even realised were nano learning:
On Social Media
Nano learning is everywhere, and you might not have even noticed it! Take TikTok, for example; a leading social media platform filled with content that is, mostly, less than 2 minutes long. From pop culture, to learning a new language, there are all sorts of subject areas to delve into on TikTok, and it is a great example of how a single objective can be made easily accessible to a learner through simple, short, video.
Moreover, you can use TikTok to support your learning strategy, and scholars recognise this as an emerging example of community-based nano learning, where users can learn from one another through designing and sharing knowledge in short videos. TikTok not only enhances collaborative learning but can benefit the nano-content design by packaging learning into 15-60 second videos.
In fact, Zuheir N Khlaif and Soheil Salha in their paper, Using TikTok in Education: A Form of Micro-learning or Nano learning?, claim that TikTok can even boost engagement: “This environment allows nano learning activities to foster learner engagement.” So, it seems that using short videos to deliver individual learning outcomes, is not only a valid way of engaging learners, but an effective one.
You will interact with nano learning every day while you are working without even realising it. From infographics and posters around the office, to email reminders.
When you have a quick chat with your colleagues about an upcoming project, or even about their weekend plans, you are engaging with the principles of nano learning; a learning conversation, with a single learning objective that piques your interest to learn more.
Nano learning is an intrinsic part of everyday life. It is about imparting and sharing knowledge, communicating a piece of knowledge efficiently and in an engaged way. This concept is not unlike those used in adverts on your TV, for example, which must gain your attention quickly and develop that into a level of interest that would drive you towards that product, service, or message.
This same principle can be traced back to your food packaging, even – your cereal boxes, your plant-milk alternative cartons (Oatly in particular) – all of them are trying to tell you a story, to get across information in a tiny amount of space and time so that you remember them.
What are the benefits of nano learning?
One of the biggest advantages of nano learning is that it can reduce the time needed to learn concepts and skills. By breaking down complex topics into small, manageable units, learners can quickly and easily absorb the information. This, in turn, allows them to spend more time using and reinforcing the knowledge they have gained so that they can implement it in the workplace, or in their daily practices, rooting them at the centre of the learning journey. Nano can and, arguably, should also be used to supplement traditional learning methods such as long text (think employee handbooks), and long video lectures. We should begin exploring the concept of nano learning in conjunction to a digital connectivism which assembles the learner in the middle of a network of learning to develop and progress their understanding of content.
Another great thing about nano learning is that it can be used to cover topics that may be too complex or time consuming to cover all in one chunk. By providing learners with short, bite-sized pieces of information, they can easily digest the material and move on to the next topic. This makes it easier for learners to stay focused and engaged with the material.
How can I start using nano learning?
The natural reaction to this is to consider what technology you can use to develop nano learning practices in your own strategies, however the use of new tech isn’t always essential. Here are a variety of ways to incorporate nano learning into your educational and training programmes. Here are some examples of nano learning that you can start using today:
Short video tutorials are great for quickly introducing learners to a concept or skill. They can be used to explain a process step-by-step, or to provide a visual demonstration of a task, teaching key objectives in a faster, visual format. Video tutorials can be used to supplement traditional longer learning materials, or as individual nodes in a nano learning network.
Podcasting and Audio Lessons
Podcasting and audio lessons can be used to provide learners with a more interactive way to learn. Using audio is more engaging than reading from a screen or printout and can be used to quickly explain concepts and provide examples for shorter nano-bites of learning, as well as in longer formats, such as podcasts, for bite-sized learning initiatives.
Interactive quizzes are widely used to test a learner’s knowledge of a topic. They can also be used to aid topic revision and help learners identify areas that need further study. Interactive quizzes that don’t rely on multiple choice questions are a simpler way of including gamification techniques to help your learners engage more, using their knowledge to answer questions which helps to cement learning.
Infographics are used to quickly convey complex information. They can be used to explain a concept visually or to provide learners with a quick overview of a topic. If you ever find yourself struggling to put a concept into writing or video format, try putting it into an infographic.
Want to know more? Join us at LT 2023 to learn more about nano learning
Learning Technologies is Europe’s leading learning and development event, attended by over 9,000 people from around 50 different countries and will be returning to the ExCeL, London, in 2023 on 3-4 May.
Omniplex Learning will be at Stand G05 and we hope to see you there. Check out our agenda for this year and grab your free visitors pass.
Want to chat with our team on the day? Get in touch by emailing us at [email protected].