Coffee and the Media Muffin – Changing Habits of Consumption

There was a time when Sunday morning consisted of a trip to the coffee shop with the paper and maybe a good paperback book. Today, i still go to the coffee shop, but it’s been over a year since i bought a paper and last year i bought my first e-book.

It’s also safe to say that whilst i may check out the Times App and read a few digital pages, i’m almost certain to check Facebook, send a couple of emails and perhaps plan the afternoon walk by text.

And it’s not just our leisure habits that are changing; learning habits have changed too. for a start, the distinction between ‘formal’ learning, in the classroom and ‘informal’ learning (that which is done in a less structured and less spatially constrained way) has broken down. It’s routine for courses to include pre course e-learning, media used in workshops that can be taken away and available post-course for follow up. I’m already working on the first ‘course specific’ Apps, which will enable users to download micro segments of the learning, as well as specific productivity tools that they can take away to use in their everyday work.

Not only has the time changed in which we do the learning, but the media that we use, and are prepared to accept, has also changed. Anyone walking into a room to deliver a seminar using PowerPoint has damned themselves from the start. It’s yesterday’s tool. With so many great alternatives about, coupled with an institutional addiction to overpowering branding and quantity over quality, you set expectations very low from the outset.

We routinely create video specifically for individual workshops these days. There may be a core of ‘generic’ video, but often it’s topped and tailed with customer specific segments, and people expect this type of approach.

In our everyday lives, media used to be the paper in the morning and the news on the telly in the evening. I can remember when the planes hit the tower in 2001, we all clustered around the office TV (CRT, not flatscreen) to watch it and marvelled at how ‘instant’ the media fix was. Today, we can stream the feed to our phone and, crucially, our behaviours of consumption have changed to match availability.

We’ve let technology drive our behaviours, availability leads to activity. People regularly check and send work emails ‘out of hours’ and, increasingly, choose to carry out their learning in this way. One the one hand, technology has driven behaviours that free up time during the day and make our working habits more flexible. On the other, it’s eroded the distinction between ‘work’ and ‘not work’ and degraded the desire to stick with one thing for more than a few minutes.

Five years ago, the typical length of an e-learning module was 45-60 minutes, whilst now, our brief is frequently to construct it out of 3-5 minute sections; podcasts, stand alone exercises etc. This is, in many ways, a good thing, as it allows individuals the greater flexibility to structure their own learning, although it’s based on an untested premise that it’s actually more effective. It also sets an expectation that future learning will be in this format, which, whilst desirable for the learner, can lead to various issues that businesses are not well adapted to meet, such as how to index and version control large volumes of media, and simply how to ensure quality in such a volume.

For better or for worse, one thing is sure. Our habits of consumption of media are changing, and it has, and will continue to have, strong implications for the development of learning materials.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Facebook, Formal Learning Spaces, Informal Learning Spaces, Mobile Apps and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Coffee and the Media Muffin – Changing Habits of Consumption

  1. richard allan says:

    very true julian… the main problem i find when preparing courses for my business students using the modern technologies that you speak of, it requires, or more often than not depends on, them being fully motivated and further to that being allowed the time and space in their ‘extended work hours’ to be motivated (or able) to do the pre work or the actual course itself, let alone the follow up. In this way, further training is becoming more of a chore or an invasion into daily work rather than and escape and an opportunity as it used to be. The effect of this is that educators now must be more innovative in designing courses to attract and maintain the attention of a group who can go back to their desk in their coffee break! over

    • julianstodd says:

      Very true – and a real challenge! If we’re all discerning consumers of media, and we are all competing for a slice of the available time, then it’s a real challenge to convince someone to commit that time to your learning…

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