There is hardly an industry, hardly a topic where a musical comparison can’t be drawn. Personally, I do like musical comparisons, because they are descriptive and generally understandable. And as it seems, Sandhya Hedge would agree, for in her blog post, she also draws a musical comparison that speaks to me, in this case using Spotify.

Searching instead of navigating: Google teaches us to search, and Spotify requires users to be active in their search for music as well. Instead of endlessly thinking about navigation, we should just implement searching functionality allowing us to quickly find content that we’re looking for. „Learners should be encouraged to discover complimentary apps and other learning materials like they would search for new albums and artists.“

Discover: „Spotify recommends music based on what you have already played“, shows songs based on their number of plays and what our friends have been listening to. Maybe that’s exactly how we should design our learning as well. It should be possible to discover learning content curated for our needs, including content related to ones we’ve already viewed. The most-viewed and most relevant content that people of your own professional background as well as our colleagues viewed should be immediately recommended to us, in order to help us confirming that the content is relevant for our needs.

Digital learning done right is adapting to the life of the learner: We need to build online learning experiences which „serve the same content in different forms, in different sequences with different layers of integrations“. And we need to build online learning experiences where it’s always possible to ask somebody. Granted, this is difficult, but not impossible if we’re utilizing chatbots.

Another thing we can learn from music is „the perfect bite size of content“. It’s probably true that the length of a learning sequence is important, but, is it really necessary to always be short? Think about movies. The average running time of a feature film is 120 minutes. Why are we able to watch movies for such a relatively long time and still manage to pay attention all the way through? Because they have a story. Most of the online learning sequences I watched over the last years don’t have a story. They are usually merely an amalgamation of numbers and facts. If you want to truly stay on top of things, create stories that produce recognition in the listener.

However, storytelling alone is often not enough. Learners would like to view videos where they will get the feeling of sitting behind the wheel themselves, metaphorically speaking. It’s necessary to create virtual learning experiences where people get to pursue their interests in a world that reacts to what they do. For example, if you want to become a doctor, practice it on virtual patients and let real doctors give advice or share anecdotes in the form of video clips. Entertaining the participants should be encouraged, not viewed as something frivolous.

I also agree that „most online platforms are some unwieldy combination of slides and people talking“. Eliminate such lectures. Most people can’t listen to someone „reading“ from slides and get much out of it. Instead, use natural conversations or interviews that produce recognition in the viewers about the potential use (keyword: podcasts).

An educational organization that wants to be on the cutting edge of tomorrow must also design their content not only to properly work on tablets, but smartphones and maybe even smartwatches as well. Small rectangles with a picture and a headline that deliver information will be irreplacable as soon as content needs to become so small that it fits on the display of a watch. If you click on it, you’ll get to see a video that’s only a few seconds long with subtitles instead of sound. In general, videos have to work without sound. The units of learning have to be short. Learners want to learn quickly, and they want to learn on the train ride home, for instance.

Sandhya Hedge: A Spotify for Lifelong Learning, 25th of September 2016