Verizon is taking Subscription Learning Seriously!

Michael Sunderman, Executive Director, Verizon Training and Development, is a big believer in subscription learning. In Verizon, they've got dozens of subscription-learning threads in use at any one time. They call these threads "campaigns" using the language of QMINDshare, the tool they use to deliver their subscription-learning nuggets.

Most often, Verizon uses subscription learning to reinforce previously-learned content. So for example, in a training program on Change Leadership, the learners were given a one-day workshop where they learned about change leadership and developed their own change-management plan. The workshop was then followed by a campaign of learning nuggets, reinforcing the key points and spurring further change-leadership actions.

Verizon has also recently begun using subscription learning nuggets to deliver new content as well. In one such campaign, they are teaching how to manage cross-functional projects and teams. Nuggets include content delivery, short videos and other interactions. Sunderman, who might have been a bit skeptical about using subscription learning to deliver content, has been pleasantly surprised by the result–an 89% participation rate.

What drew Michael to the use of subscription learning? He knew that creating learning alone is not enough. He had an interest in taking initial learning, making it stick, and enabling learners to put what they learned into practice in their work.

Verizon has all levels of subscription-learning campaigns. They've got some that are accessed by 2200 learners, some as small as 24 people. They often have participation rates in the 90th percentile. And, just like the rest of us who are using subscription learning, they are developing a list of lessons learned. Here is a small selection of what they've learned:

  1. Keep content nuggets short. Ideally, to keep them under 2 minutes, UNLESS the information is particularly critical or engaging.
  2. You must respect every second of your learner's time. Every piece of content must be relevant and needed. Every interaction must be meaningful.
  3. When your organization has lots of subscription-learning threads deployed, you have to be careful not to overwhelm any one person. We do this by knowing our employee groups and by having people consider who a proposed subscription-learning campaign might impact.
  4. Because subscription-learning is new, there are not a lot of expert developers of subscription-learning nuggets in the marketplace. This is probably our biggest challenge right now. We are developing our own expertise through repeated experience and my monitoring our results.
  5. Before deploying a subscription-learning thread, write all of your nuggets. If you don't, your initial enthusiasm may wear off, and you may struggle to develop nuggets as the thread is deployed.

Michael sees subscription learning as a new technology the way elearning was a new technology a decade or two earlier. The biggest mistake the field made when it started using elearning was that it tried to use classroom methods in elearning, when such methods weren't always consistent with the technology. He worries that we'll fall in to the same trap, using elearning methods when we really should be using specialized subscription-learning methods. Therefore, the key is for subscription-learning developers to think beyond the old models, be open to experimentation, and to learn from each other.

Kudos to Michael and his colleagues for seeing the need for learning that sticks and for taking the lead in innovating with this new learning methodology.