Developing a Learning Culture

Mining for Meaning: When YouTube Hurts Microlearning

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YouTube can, at times, represent a paradoxical universe: The same place that spawns all-out and nonsensical comment wars can be a haven for education-seekers. In fact, YouTube’s greatest weakness also supports its greatest strength: Short-form communication delivered in a snappy and engaging way.

While an idle YouTube seeker might flit from video to video without much thought, those who utilize YouTube as a learning tool must be able to mine through the muck to find nuggets of wisdom hidden throughout. And, when the same idea is applied to all microlearning, administrators have the ability to strike eLearning gold.

YouTube’s Catch-22

YouTube’s major issue is one that plagues almost every knowledge library: Simply too much of a good thing. Sure, information might be tightly packed into a hyper-accessible delivery machine, but it’s drawing out the important stuff that stops learners in their tracks.

Think about the last time you browsed YouTube. You might have been looking for fitness videos, checking out your favorite music, or even subscribing to a YouTube celeb. But chances are that every time you typed a query into that search bar, you received a few relevant hits–but you also received thousands of other videos that didn’t really fulfill what you were looking for. In fact, you might have found yourself scrolling through videos, trying to dig up what you really wanted from YouTube’s gargantuan media library.

Some users simply get frustrated and search elsewhere. Others get sidetracked and spend 45 minutes watching prank videos when they were really looking for a tutorial. Either way, YouTube can cause a landslide of microearning, thanks to broad keywords and hour upon hour of media. Those mining for information can quickly become buried in a barrage of search by-product.

LMS Prospecting

The same issue that can make YouTube a minefield for distraction can muddy the waters of your eLearning LMS. Whether you’re relying on microlearning or another method, keyword search issues can leave learners feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. It’s up to learning architects to utilize keywords so learners find exactly what they need, when they need it.

Some learning is prescriptive: Go to this link and watch this video. But if you expect learners to participate in self-led applications, structure needs to be built into the program. “Chunking” learning based on level of expertise, for example, can give learners a path to follow while still offering a large degree of learning autonomy. Leveling content helps guide learners so they don’t become buried alive by the very thing they were seeking in the first place.

Microlearning is meant to be quick, in the moment, and hyper-contextual. But when a learning library is so vast that learners get lost, exhaustive content can backfire and cause learners to leave or become enveloped in off-topic information. Tutorials on YouTube are great–that is, until you get distracted by a funny cat video. By offering learners loose guidance and smart search terms, it’s possible to harness content and find the diamonds in the rough.