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What schools can learn from Netflix

Educators can learn a few valuable lessons from the global streaming service

NEWS 18 May 2022

Why can we binge watch an entire series on Netflix in one sitting and not get bored? Why do endless episodes of Game of Thrones meld into one and, hours after you first picked up the TV remote, you’re still urging on your favourite characters as they do battle for the Iron Throne?

What is it about the global streaming service and its format that draws us in and makes its content so easy to consume? And how can education and school curriculums become more like Netflix to keep students engaged, curious and wanting more?

“It begins with learners having time to browse”
Damien Meunier, Head of Entrepreneurship at Haileybury

He says crammed curriculums and lessons don’t give students ‘browse’ time to review their options and process what they’ve learned.

“We can all relate to sitting down to watch Netflix and browsing. You’re taking things in, you add a few items to your list, but an hour later, you haven’t actually watched anything. Next time, you will know to know exactly what you want to watch…maybe,” he says.

Do you go with that feel-good comedy or that award-winning new drama – the process of deciding what to watch on Netflix can also translate from loungeroom to classroom. While Damien says there has to be a core minimum curriculum for students to experience a learning program, there can be some Netflix-style flexibility around the path taken.

‘Bitesize’ and ‘snackable’ lessons can also borrow from Netflix. How many times have you looked at the clock, realised it’s bedtime but the crime series you’re watching has reached a critical point…should you watch just one more episode? Why not – the episodes only last for 23 minutes? You’ll still get enough sleep…

Bitesize snippets of learning are not a new idea and new microlearning platforms are exploding with some delivering daily 15-minute lessons, says Damien. Haileybury’s Entrepreneurship curriculum is delivered in a ‘series’ of short ‘episodes’ with students completing a task to demonstrate they’ve achieved the required learning in each episode. It’s convenient, engaging and exciting learning, says Damien.

Before you finish that series you’re currently engrossed in, the chances are that you’re already thinking about what to watch next. You might check the Top 10 list or look at what’s trending, or perhaps get a couple of recommendations from friends.

“Netflix feeds the ‘what’s next’ anticipation with persistent recommendations using a sophisticated AI algorithm and the auto-play feature that automatically begins the next episode,” says Damien.

Building that ‘what’s next’ anticipation is a powerful learning tool and it’s a technique Damien uses in Haileybury’s Entrepreneurship curriculum. He gives students suggested learning series and pathways, just like the ‘Top 10’ and mimics Netflix’s autoplay with learning episodes that promote the next steps. He also encourages students to share, review and suggest with their classmates.

Rounding off the Netflix model, Damien says educators need to ensure learners feel connected to the characters and storyline unfolding in the classroom.

“We’ve all had that character in a mini-series we loved so much that we missed them when the series ended. Absolute engagement in a series, character or storyline has us rushing home to switch on the box just to feel that connection again,” he says.

“I’ve seen students so proud and engaged in some of the Entrepreneurship programs that they’ve worked on them in their own time. When you align learning with passions, magic happens!”