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Brought to You by the Letters E and U

When designing educational materials that are primarily absorbed via video, which is precisely what I do all day every day, it pays to return to my roots - to some of my earliest learning experiences - to a big name in education. Kermit the Frog of Sesame Street.

Don't scoff! Jim Henson and the Children's Television Workshop had the right ideas in mind when developing television for kids . . . even way back then in the 1970s. Sesame Street was a groundbreaker, an award-winner, and I'm sure taught a great number of American children letters, numbers, some basic Spanish, and which things were not like others!

Do you remember the format of Sesame Street? There was a theme running through each episode, such as farming or weather, and the program consisted of small, related segments. Each segment was brief, and taught one specific concept - such as the sound of the letter N, or counting to 12 - before moving on. These little pieces were short enough to hold the limited attention of children and focused enough to teach the concept thoroughly. Segments were developed using live video featuring both real people and Muppets, animation of many types, music, and foreign language. The same concept was often taught several times during an episode, utilizing different approaches.

Well, I don't get to use Muppets and music in the work I do for Epicor (career goals), but here at Epicor we do use some of the same ideas when we teach concepts to adults. Lessons on "multi-level pegging" or "job scheduling" are most effective when they are short, focused, and clear - just like a Sesame Street segment on the concepts of "near" and "far." And just as the Children's Television Workshop used short videos to teach, so too does Epicor's Digital Content Development team.

The first part of "short videos" is "short." Length is extremely important! When my team develops a course for Epicor ERP, we start by looking at the content to be covered. We ask ourselves a question about that content . . . "What is it we're trying to teach?" If there are multiple answers, then we may need to divide the content across several courses. Once we make sure we are working with one topic, we start to cut that topic into segments. We divide what we want our learners to consume, so that each "chunk" is bite-sized. So, if we're teaching a course on Job Entry, we may have a segment on entering basic job details, another on adding a demand link, and still another on scheduling the job. While the whole course teaches a complicated topic, the digestible chunks of content help the learner to consume it more easily.

The second part of "short video" is "video." Video is easy to build and maintain, it's great for storytelling, and it is always available - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It provides a consistent message, allowing Epicor and its customers to receive the same training and ideas. Most importantly - video provides two-channel learning. This means that it uses visuals and audio that work together to teach concepts - a method that is promoted by a learning theory called "dual coding."

The basic idea behind dual coding is that there are two separate brain pathways for encoding information into memory, one verbal and one visual. Dual coding has real potential to impact learning because it goes to the core of how humans remember things.

Deb Amato is the Sr Product Content Owner at Epicor University. Connect with Deb on LinkedIn.


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