Hyperbolic Discounting – Why Time and Size Matter in Learning

Hyperbolic Discounting in Learning

Hyperbolic Discounting – Why Time and Size Matter in Learning

If you’re involved in the learning and development space, you cannot have missed the trends of gamification and microlearning. As organisations consider implementing these approaches, they are often vary of buying into fading fads – and rightfully so! However, a lot of the new methods and approaches that may come across as gimmicks actually have valid foundations in the science of teaching, pedagogy, as well as educational psychology. To help organisations understand why things like gamification and microlearning work, we decided to open up some of the learning psychology behind each approach. Hence, let’s look at a phenomenon called hyperbolic discounting and it’s effect on learning.

What is hyperbolic discounting in short?

Hyperbolic discounting is a phenomenon initially discovered in behavioural economics and is in fact one of the cornerstones of the field. The prevalent finding and consequence of hyperbolic discounting is people’s preference towards smaller rewards in the near future rather than large rewards in the distant future. Generally, research sees people as present-biased, meaning they are more likely to sacrifice long-term gains in terms of short-term interest.

Now, why does this matter in learning? The two major modern learning approaches basing on this behavioural trait are instant rewarding and microlearning:

1. Hyperbolic discounting explains the success of gamification

The underlying principle of gamification is to provide continuous and relatively high frequency rewards to motivate the learner. Whereas large contexts of learning may seem overwhelming, gamification helps learners to track their own progress in more manageable pieces. With instant rewards, learners always get some kind of “credit” for their participation.

This happens to play perfectly on the psychology of hyperbolic discounting. Rewards are no longer vaguely defined (e.g. this learning helps you in your career path) and difficult to assign a mental value to. Rather, learners know that when they commit to something, they will be instantly rewarded. Naturally, the rewards come in many kinds: badges, points, credits, financial rewards and social recognition just to name a few. The common denominator is that learners can “collect” them instantly.

2. Chunking learning content to cater for the present-biased

Now, it’s likely that gamification is not suitable for everything. Yet, the psychology of hyperbolic discounting and its effect on learning remains. The structure of learning content is a major factor in catering to the phenomenon. Whereas gamification tends to cater to extrinsic factors, you can use a bite-sized learning content structure to cater to the intrinsic aspects of learning motivation.

For instance, you may have a course you require your employees to take. However, as a whole, the course might seem overwhelming with its length. Learners procrastinate and delay uptake due to the high time investment required and rewards being outside of their immediate horizon. To overcome the problem, you should try chunking the content into manageable pieces. The approach of chunking content overlaps a lot with the concept of microlearning. Overall, the approach helps your learners to manage their own targets better. Doing a small task for a few minutes feels a lot easier. Consequently, this could increase your learning uptake and time-to-competency, as learners are engaging more consistently and frequently.

If you have challenges in your digital learning engagement and participation, we may be able to help. The help can be in the form of consulting on learning design or hands-on content development. Just contact us here to discuss your challenges. 

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Learning in the Flow of Work – Steps Towards the Future of Learning

Workflow learning - learning in the workflow

Workflow Learning – Taking Steps towards the Future of Learning

The corporate learning and development community is quite unanimous on one issue: most of our professional learning happens in the context of our daily jobs. Just like the adult learning theory captures it, humans learn by building on their experiences in a high-context environment. However, acknowledging the existence of workflow learning is soon no longer enough. In the hyper-connected and real-time corporate environment of the future, organisations need to start nurturing learning in the flow of work. Traditional corporate training approaches are not fast nor effective enough to respond to the constantly changing environment and evolving skills requirements. Instead, we have to embed learning as a process to our daily workflow as well as corporate culture.

Luckily, what has changed within the past few years is that nowadays we have the technology available to support this new type of learning. To lay out the concept and required change of mindset further, here’s how we at Learning Crafters see the evolution of workflow learning.

Workflow learning will force us away from course-centered design

An aspect where corporate L&D shown a great lack of imagination over the past decades is the innovation of new learning modalities. It is, it has been and unfortunately will likely continue to be all about courses for many. Do you have a skill gap in your organisation? Develop a course! Do you need to overcome a performance slump? Develop a course! Developing a course – or a formal training activity of other kind – seems to be the first and often only solution learning professional can think of. Yet, this solution will quickly render itself obsolete when we need to embed learning in the flow of work. Courses and formal activities are dramatically too slow, cumbersome and inefficient to respond to the workflow learning needs of the future. Organisations can no longer afford the productivity lost by subjecting their employees to lengthy training interventions.

Now you’re probably thinking: “if not courses, what’s the new ‘unit’ of learning?”. A potential answer to that is performance support resources.

Performance support resources will be at the core of workflow learning

The new era of learning is all about performance – finding ways to keep the organisation performing at its maximum efficiency. In a fast-paced environment, learning in the flow of work is about incremental, yet constant updates and refreshed to skills and capabilities. To enable this kind of incremental development, we need to shift our mindset from courses to resources. Instead of large courses abundant with content, we need to curate a library of performance support resources to support experiential learning in the flow of work.

Performance support resources are concise and specific curations of knowledge that learners can access and query quickly. After a quick query at point-of-need, the learner can then go on to applying the new knowledge immediately, hence translating the newly learnt concept into a positive use experience. Furthermore, there are number of different easy-to-use technologies to support the process. This is a natural and powerful helper for behavioural change, as the application and impact is immediate and visible.

This type of learning might sound familiar. And you’re not alone. In fact, we’d argue that this is how most of our personal learning takes place today. Whenever a problem, need for new knowledge or learning arises, we do a quick query (e.g. Google) to a library of resources (Internet) and solve the problem on the spot using the new knowledge. Unfortunately, organisations tend to limit this type of learning due to a variety of reasons (security, compliance etc.). However, in terms of existing resources, many companies have already taken a perhaps unacknowledged step towards this.

Microlearning is a good way of approaching performance support content

Many organisations have implemented microlearning initiatives in the past few years. By doing so, they’ve also created a good baseline of content for performance support resources. After all, performance support in workflow learning is all about accessing knowledge in a compact format fast and conveniently. However, microlearning doesn’t just mean cutting the longer course into smaller fractions. Rather, you should design each activity with a very specific objective in mind.

For more on building effective microlearning, read our tips here

Another reason why microlearning works so wonderfully for performance support is the ease of content curation. Rather than delivering long-format courses, you’re addressing specific problems. You can even leverage on a lot of free resources available. The key is to keep it concise and accessible, however the greatest emphasis being on searchability. If your learners cannot find the resources they need in a very short amount of time, that’s not much of “support”, is it?

In conclusion, while we see the movement towards more workflow learning -oriented practice, it’s important to remember there is no one-size fits all. There will still be need for “formal” learning activities. However, the possibilities of integrating learning into the business processes at a more fundamental level brings about interesting performance considerations.

Are you experimenting with learning in the flow of work? We would love to hear your success stories! You can always get in touch with us through here


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Curating Interactive Microlearning Videos – Leveraging Free Resources

Curate Microlearning videos

Curating Interactive Microlearning Videos – Leveraging Free Resources

“Video is the king of content” is a statement that holds true especially well today. Digital and mobile behaviour analytics indicate that video is the most engaging format of content. Whether is personal or professional, weekends or office hours, our tendency to consume knowledge snacks in bite-sized video format is ever growing. This is why microlearning, especially interactive microlearning videos, fare so well in engaging the learners. However, organisations often see videos as an expensive format to produce (they’re not!), which hinders adoption. This line of thought is failing to see the forest from the trees. There are already massive libraries of free video content available to everyone with internet, so why not take advantage of those? In this article, we look at leveraging free Youtube videos in curating interactive microlearning videos.

What is curation and why is it important?

Content curation is the process of selecting and refining the content to suit the learning objectives. The amount of content in services like Youtube becomes a problem when trying to integrate learning into the flow of work. Simply put, employees don’t have the time to go through several videos in trying to find the one that fits their needs. Hence, the most basic level of curation – identifying the suitable content – is an important task for the L&D team. From thereon, you can go further in incorporating knowledge checks, navigation and other additional elements into the video. Check out the example below.

(this example is a very primitive one, based on the video on our front page, but you’ll get the point!)

What’s the benefit of curating interactive microlearning videos like this?

The benefit of refining the content with embedded comes in the form of increased engagement and content performance. There’s quite a number of things that you can do with the videos:

  • Linking to other content – this helps your learners to find solutions to their problems with other supporting resources
  • Video navigations – these help your learners to get to the right information faster – no more time wasted in watching videos without getting the answers needed. Good navigation is an absolute must for longer videos.
  • Knowledge checks – these provide a good way to engage the learners within the video and test their learning. At the most basic, it can be to check whether the concept was understood. At a more refined level, you can prompt for more qualitative user input and feedback.

Arguably, the whole corporate learning sphere is moving to a more performance- and learner-centric approach. More ‘Pull’, less ‘Push’. More performance support, less assigned compulsory learning. These types of interactive microlearning videos provide a great way of catering to that requirement. And by leveraging on free resources, you can keep the costs down while having access to loads of good content.

Would you like to find out more about curating microlearning videos such as this one? Or would you like to learn more about using free resources in your learning mix? We’ll help you, just contact us here

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Spaced Learning for Corporates – Maximise Learning Retention

Spaced learning

Spaced Learning for Corporates – Maximising Learning Retention

‘Repetition is the key to all learning’ is a statement that holds a lot of truth in it. Unfortunately, in the context of corporate learning we tend to forget repetition and the time required to learn new skills. Instead, we expect our employees to pick up on things and change behaviour with just a single classroom session or eLearning activity. Treating learning as a transaction rather than a journey is an approach bound to fail. Instead, corporates could use a spaced learning approach to create greater impact, while staying efficient and keeping costs under control.

What is Spaced Learning?

Paul Kelley developed the spaced learning concept and methodology based on the neuroscience work of R. Douglas Fields. The methodology recognises that all learning is subject to a forgetting curve. By enabling adequate repetition, we can help our learners fight the forgetting and transfer knowledge into long-term memory. The backbone of the idea is to segment learning in short, repetitive activities, spaced by pauses. A simple spaced learning cycle could be only 5+10+5+10+5 minutes. The 5-minute sections represent learning activities, whereas the 10-minute stints are pauses to take the mind of the learning. In the research, Kelley found that just a simple 3-layered cycle could increase learning results significantly.

Using Spaced Learning in Corporate L&D

As results oriented entities, corporate L&D departments are always looking to do things better and more efficiently. Spaced learning can be a good approach to maximise learning retention while not going overboard with resources or budget required. Here’s how you could get started with the method.

1. Structure learning into shorts bursts as a journey over time

The two key aspects of spaced learning – repetition and pauses – are easy to build into any learning program. Instead of developing a large chunk of content or a time-consuming one-time activity, you should develop learning into short bursts. Microlearning is a great way to do this. Learners can complete one activity in the morning, another in the afternoon or next week. Naturally, topics come with different complexities. Thus, you should adjust the content and spacing accordingly for different learning items.

2. Incorporate creative repetition and deliver condensed nuggets

Furthermore, instead of constantly introducing new knowledge with every activity, focus on creative repetition. Find ways to explain the content in different ways, e.g. animations, simulations or collaborative learning activities. Just repeating the same content over and over again is a surefire way of losing the learners’ attention. As with any impactful learning activity, less is more. Make sure to deliver the knowledge as concisely as possible – you don’t have much room for “nice-to-know” things with this type of delivery.

3. Pick your use cases for maximum impact

We can roughly divide the benefits of spaced learning into two categories. You should ideally aim to reap the benefits on both.

  1. Increase in learning results (retention, application)
  2. Increase in efficiency & productivity

Therefore, you should be using spaced learning to reinforce desired behaviours in the organisation. The more you expose your learners to the materials and activities, the more likely they are to apply the new knowledge. Also, spaced learning can help to increase productivity and efficiency. When you deliver learning in short segments over time, the loss in productivity is smaller. Instead of going into a classroom or taking a lengthy digital course, your employees can consume the bite-sized knowledge on the job.

Are you using spaced learning in your organisation? Want to find out more about structuring spaced learning activities for various use cases? Just contact us and we’ll help you get started. 


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4 Tips on Building Effective Microlearning

Building effective microlearning

4 Tips on Building Effective Microlearning

Microlearning, which means learning through easily digestible, short chunks of content, is quite popular. Organisations have taken up on microlearning for several reasons, including its benefits to both learners and trainers. However, many have also fallen short in delivering a real, effective microlearning experience rather than just the same old content divided into pieces.

Here are four things you should keep in mind when implementing microlearning to guarantee better learning results.

1. Effective microlearning chunks only contain a single, specific learning objective

Sounds obvious, but it’s more important than you think. When fighting for our learners’ attention, we a have to deliver clear and concise messages. The learning objective needs to be very specific. For instance, “learn to use a fire extinguisher” rather than “learn the basics of fire safety”. Or “learn the anti-money laundering compliance process for high net-worth individuals” rather than “learn the anti-money laundering requirements for compliance purposes”.

Being very specific with the learning objectives helps to build effective learning content. As your microlearning nugget should be consumable in 3-7 minutes, you don’t have time for long documents, let alone introductions required by broad topics. By doing this, we do not impose cognitive overload on our learners. They engage with the content and can move directly to application, while things are still fresh in memory.

2. Microlearning requires new types of content

Many organisations fail to build effective digital learning experiences because they think they can get away with wrapping the old toys in a new package. The same is true for microlearning. Organisations fail to deliver, because they still use documents, files, traditional files and presentations – text based content!

When we need to deliver content adequate to fulfil our learning objectives in just 3-7 minutes, the reality is that text just doesn’t do the job good enough. Rather, we need to use content elements that visualise the situations and relate them to our learners’ tasks. Video is a great alternative, and animations, especially, are well liked in the learning community. Other great mediums include simulations, quizzes and other interactive content.

3. Effective microlearning is searchable

As explained previously in why your learning should be bite-sized, microlearning is great because it caters to our on-demand learning needs. From learning retention’s point of view, it is very unlikely that a one-time learning activity is sustainable for the long-term. Learning needs to be continuous, and we as well require refreshments from time to time. This means, that the microlearning should always be available, but more importantly searchable. Rather than taking the time to go through several documents, our learners can access the material through a quick search. This searchability means that our learners, the employees, can stay on their jobs while doing the learning – with as little downtime as possible.

4. Application and evaluation must not be neglected

Finally, as we’ve parsed our content in a single-objective, multimedia and searchable format, we need to remember two things – application and evaluation. Unfortunately often neglected, these parts of any learning process tend to be the most vital. We should strive to provide exercises for learners to apply their knowledge immediately. We have a plethora of ways of doing that digitally, such as different interactive elements. If, however, digital means are impractical, we should encourage learner’s to learn when close to their job setting to enable instant application. No-one has become a great mathematician without solving the equations, nor a great writer without writing a lot. Applicable to just about any job, this illustrated our need for more of the ‘application’.

To add to that, we should not forget evaluation either. As learning providers, we need evaluation to stay up to date with the skills and capabilities of our employees. Our learners need the evaluation to monitor their own progress, and perhaps even motivate them forward. If evaluation, which means collecting the learning data, is not done properly, elearning has become a tick-box exercise. In that case, neither the learners or the trainers have any insight to if learning is happening. And at that point, learning becomes an expense rather than investment.

Are you struggling to build effective microlearning or interested in implementing but not sure where to start? Drop us a note and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. 

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Why should your learning be bite-sized?

Bite-sized Learning

Bite-sized Learning – Why Should You Use It?

Bite-sized learning, more commonly known as microlearning, has been taking the L&D industry by storm, and rightfully so. Microlearning as a concept is nothing new; we’ve trained people for a long time by exposing them to training for short durations of time, emphasising interactive repetition for better learning retention. Most of this, however, has been unstructured and informal. Just think about all the times that your colleagues have shown you a new trick on the the company information systems, and made sure you can do it on your own before letting you go.

Finally, now that we are starting to see companies to develop more structured approaches to microlearning, it’s important to remind ourselves of the fundamentals on what makes this bite-sized learning approach so efficient.

1. Microlearning is suitable for expanding on existing knowledge, and to further develop already existing skills.

People today are more educated than ever. All of your employees have a vast pool of knowledge to draw from, whether that comes from their formal studies and qualifications or their work experience. They know at least the basics for the most of it. In the corporate world, it’s very seldom that we teach entirely new skill sets. Giving your learners access to quick-to-consume content helps to activate their memory and brain around the topic at hand. A lot of the things we actually do know already but they’re not in our active memory. Microlearning works well on adding small incremental bits of knowledge to the learner’s existing pool of knowledge.

2. Microlearning is easy to manage and handle for learners and trainers.

From a L&D manager’s perspective, microlearning is attractive because the production is more flexible. You don’t need to finish a course before publishing, but rather curate and publish single-objective learning nuggets one by one – adding incremental bits. Technology is definitely helpful in this regard, but it pays to keep in mind that we are crafting learning for the sake of learning, not to showcase our latest tech gimmicks.

Also, from the learner’s point of view, bite-sized learning can make things easier. People dislike wasting their valuable time on things not relevant to them or things they already know. Rather than going through a lengthy course on many subjects, learners can consume short pieces of content to determine their existing skill level and knowledge on different topics, and to better focus their learning efforts going forward. Also, microlearning pairs nicely with mobile technologies, enabling people to consume a few minutes of interactive content here and there which in turn helps them manage their time better.

3. Microlearning can double as performance support.

Ever since the inception of smartphones and mobile internet, people have seemingly developed a distinctive behaviour: rapid queries. If people don’t know something, they search it online. If a retail sales assistant doesn’t know how to operate the cash register, he/she probably asks her colleagues. But what happens when the problem is too specific, there’s no internet or no colleagues to ask from?

This is where microlearning doubles nicely as performance support. Once our knowledge and learning is structured in a micro format, we can effectively query things and refresh our memory on the spot. For example, a technician maintaining a factory machine might encounter a problem he/she doesn’t recall a solution to. A fast query via a mobile device to the bite-sized learning content enables the technician to consume information about a very specific issue while remaining on-site, with as little downtime as possible.

Are you looking into microlearning but not quite sure where to start? Drop us a note, or open the chat, and we’ll be happy to guide you in the right direction. 

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