What’s in Your Learning Playlist?

dreamstime_xs_27207411Early in December, an article in the UK’s i newspaper got me thinking.

Music professor, Mike Errico asked whether the three-minute song had run its course.  He noted that:

Spotify data from 2014 suggests that 24.14 per cent of listeners will skip a song within the first five seconds, and the chances that they will listen through to the end is about 50:50.

Songwriter, Mark Christopher Lee read Errico’s piece and decided to test this out and produced an album of 100 tracks, each about 30 seconds in length.

Using snippets of learning

Mike and Mark are tackling the same issue that increasingly arises in the learning sector.  How do we adjust our learning solutions to cater for the audience that looks around for snippets of learning on demand and keeps skipping through till they find something that hits the mark?

I’ve already written about how learner’s preferences are changing and about how video and other forms of so-called micro-learning need to become a greater part of our overall offering, so I won’t go into too much more detail on those points.

But it does indeed look like our attention spans are shortening in all areas of our lives and we now consume content differently.  I know that I decide which version of a classical work I will buy by skipping through the preview tracks on iTunes or Amazon.  In the past, my research would have been a lot more planned and thorough, but why bother with all that, if I can just click a handful of times until I find something that I like?

It’s the same with learning.  If I’m browsing YouTube to find out how to do something, or searching through the getAbstract app for a summary of a current industry trend, I quickly use the search facility to determine a shortlist of possible options, then skim through the first few seconds/sentences of each until I find the closest match.  I tend to shy away from anything that appears too long, or provides too much depth, as I don’t really have the time to wade through a lot of content to find what I need.

Why, you might ask, would I want to keep clicking through other items if I’d potentially found what I wanted early on?  In the old days (if not currently), if I wanted to improve my time management skills, the LMS would serve up the standard time management course.  But when I’m skipping through my shortlisted snippets of learning, I’m also looking to see which treatment matches my intended use of that information, or brings me into the topic at the right level, based on what I may already know about the subject.  I’m unlikely to get that context from the course served up by the LMS, so my seemingly haphazard way of searching feels like it’ll deliver a better end-result.

Using learning playlists

Now back to the playlist idea.  When I was creating a recent training app, the notion of organising content into playlists did arise, but in the end we stuck with a traditional menu structure.  And that did work well given the need to offer some structure behind the content.

But if video and audio continue to remain a popular micro-learning format – and they are certainly the most mobile friendly and relatively quick and easy to create – then the concept of the learning playlist is an exciting one.

On my iPod, when I hear a track I like, with a click or two, I can add it to either an existing playlist or can create a new one for perhaps a different genre of music.  I can later access these same playlists on other devices and can monitor which tracks I play the most via iTunes.  I’m in total control of what music I access and how I access it.  It would marvellous is we could find the learning equivalent.

When I look at the current suite of LMS apps, I realise they are based around the notion of the traditional catalogue listing and learning plan menu; and can only pull through mobile ready content from the LMS.  They lack the highly personalisable nature of your typical playlist.

Wouldn’t it be great if learners could create their own learning playlists on the fly?  Not only could they include audio and video content, but if we could also employ the functionality of those websites that let you store links to content you’d like to read later, we’d have a pretty valuable learning resource.  Each learner could create different playlists to meet differing needs and they could possible even share playlists with others in their social (learning) networks.

Of course, if your learning content is already available as video and audio, then there’s nothing to stop a learner doing this now on their device.  If you can make it easy for them to grab the content and – for the time being anyhow – you’re less concerned about tracking usage, then it might just be a matter of giving them the idea to create their own learning playlists.  And apps such as Pocket already allow you to collate video and web articles.

That’s one of the best elements of digital learning today – our learners actually have many of the tools they need already.  They’re just not yet being used to their full (learning) potential.

So think about how you could use video and audio and look for ways to promote the use of playlists to help learners organise their own personalised learning portfolios.  And looking ahead, let’s see how we can create new generation learning systems that incorporate playlist functionality for learners.


What’s in Your Learning Playlist?

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