What Is Microlearning, And Is It A Good Fit For Your Business?

What Is Microlearning, And Is It A Good Fit For Your Business?

In the last few years, we are witnessing the use of Microlearning in many organizations’ training toolbox. It is also a hot topic of discussion amongst Learning & Development (L&D) professionals.

Is Microlearning just another buzzword, or is it a real trend that’s about to transform the way we approach learning in our workplace?

This article will cover:

  • What Microlearning really is
  • What are the benefits of implementing Microlearning approach in the work environment
  • Why is Microlearning becoming increasingly used
  • Where do we see an adoption of Microlearning
  • Is Microlearning a good fit for your needs

What is Microlearning?

It’s easy to assume that Microlearning simply refers to short, bite-sized training materials, but actually, it means much more than that. Microlearning is a strategy that focuses very strategically on learner-transformation, offering just the right amount of information necessary to help a learner achieve a specific, actionable objective. This approach makes Microlearning a very appealing concept for many organizations. Businesses large and small are facing the ever-growing need to keep their employees up to date, while still expecting them to perform and keep up the pace on their job. Microlearning mitigates the gap between working and learning in the sense that learning can be done in any place, any time, on any device, without the need to leave the workplace for pre-planned training.

What Is Unique About This Approach?

Unlike other forms of training, Microlearning allows learners to consume training on their job and apply the newly acquired knowledge immediately. It lets learners pick and choose the most needed at the moment, making the content even more relevant to their work. This learner-driven nature of Microlearning increases learner engagement, improves training and job efficiency and builds learner interest in seeking out additional training opportunities.

Learning just in time, just in place – much more than just small. (Photo by Daniel Cheung )

 

What Are The Benefits of Microlearning?

While Microlearning solutions may answer different needs, they offer a variety of advantages. Here are a few of them:

Easily Searchable and Personalized

When each Microlearning asset is tagged to create strong metadata, learners can easily search and find what they need to complete real, job-related tasks. This ability fosters learner autonomy, driving greater learner interest and motivation. As learners can personalize their training experience, they are more likely to apply knowledge on the job and seek out future training.

Just-in-time Learning

Microlearning supports employees accessing information when they need it most. Because assets are compact, learners are more likely to invest the time required to use them in an on-the-job context. Further, assets developed to be compatible with a wide variety of devices allow learners to use them when and where it’s most helpful. As a result, Microlearning makes it possible for learners to gain new knowledge just in time to meet their immediate needs.

Effective and Varied Learning

Microlearning lends itself to a variety of different modalities (games, videos, infographics, elearning and so on), which creates effective, richly varied training experiences for learners. Because Microlearning assets are compact and focused on specific objectives, they can be easily matched to the modality best suited to the content. Using the best modality for particular types of content creates a better, more effective training. This effectiveness and the variety of the training experiences increase learner engagement and drive employee performance.

Advantageous for Trainers and L&D Departments

Microlearning offers significant advantages for trainers and L&D professionals. Given their small size, Microlearning assets can be more convenient and affordable to produce and to maintain. Furthermore, they allow more flexibility for future adjustments and in other uses for a variety of purposes: as components of larger training initiatives, as performance support, as communication tools, and more.

Why is Microlearning Becoming Increasingly Used?

It is hard to pin down one reason alone that stands behind the emerging trend towards Microlearning. Instead, we’re witnessing a confluence of factors that have pushed Microlearning to the forefront of workplace learning strategy. Microlearning has become an ideal fit for modern business for the following reasons:

1. The Pace Of Business Has Accelerated

Disruption is a constant in almost every industry. According to Credit Suisse, the average age of a company listed on the S&P 500 is now less than 20 years—down from 60 years in 1950. In the information age, organizations must evolve faster than their competitors or else; they are out of the game.
This constant state of change has a direct impact on employees, who are now expected to perform better than ever in jobs that often didn’t exist just a few years ago. Employees have very limited time and resources to dedicate to their own development.
It’s no longer permissible to remove employees from the operation for hours or days for ongoing training. Employees are expected to get up to speed and become productive as quickly as possible because that’s what the business needs to remain agile and competitive.

2. Brain Science Has Gained Renewed Focus

Business leaders have begun to take a keen interest in the science of learning (aka cognitive psychology) over the past decade. The majority of workplace learning professionals haven’t received much in the way of formal training for their roles.
Therefore, they have never been exposed to the basics of how learning actually works. In recent years, books like Make it Stick, Brain Rules, and How We Learn have made learning science research more accessible, easier to understand and more comfortable to apply on the job.
“Brain science” is now a common term in workplace learning, and business leaders and vendors alike are exploring ways to embed these practices within their corporate training strategies.

3. Technology Has Become Ubiquitous

For years, the only touchpoint the average employee had with technology was the computer in the back room. Mobile devices have radically changed the ways employees access information on the job. BYOD (bring your own device) is slowly but surely becoming a reality for both salaried and hourly workers. WIFI has grown standard in public spaces. This technological ubiquity has exponentially expanded the potential touchpoints for employee learning and support on the job.

4. Employees Are Overwhelmed, Distracted, And Impatient

A 2014 Bersin study revealed some alarming, though not surprising facts about the modern day learner. The research shows that keeping the modern-day learner’s attention at the workplace is becoming increasingly difficult. Employees are reporting to be overwhelmed by the information overload of emails, calls, videos, and meetings throughout their workday, that each seems to be competing on their attention. They are constantly distracted, frequently as every five minutes, ironically enough by collaboration and productivity tools like emails and instant messaging.
With the proliferation of smart devices and available knowledge online, the modern-day learner’s attention span is decreasing by the hour. Employees no longer have the time and patience to sit in a 45-minute long instructor-led session, or even go through a 15-minute eLearning module that is being pushed to them on a regular basis. Instead, they would prefer to go online and use the search engines to get precisely what they need, when they need it the most.

Bersin Research Bulletin – Meet the Modern Learner, November 26, 2014

 

Where Do We See an Adoption of Microlearning?

Adoption of Microlearning is starting to emerge anywhere across organizations which are going through a transformation. We see them apply Microlearning in a variety of industries and use cases to solve meaningful problems and achieve impressive business results. Whether it’s an onboarding, sales, product, compliance, or safety challenge, Microlearning can help provide employees with the right support at the right time to drive individual and organizational success.
Here are some real stories of organizations that are using Microlearning to engage their employees in training, improve employee performance, and drive measurable business results:

1.

The all-time favorite Pizza chain Domino’s Pizza® were struggling to balance many variables to adequately train employees and maintain a consistent, high-quality standard of food. For their new employees, learning the menu and the pizza-making process can be challenging and time-consuming. They must know every item the restaurant sells, and how to quickly put the correct toppings in the right amounts for each type of pizza.
Partnering with ALLENCOMM’s, Domino’s created the Pizza Maker course, that contains three Microlearning modules. Domino’s used simulations and gamification to engage, assess and reward employees to decrease onboarding time.
Read the full case study.

2.

ETHICON® is a leading provider of surgical technologies and solutions that address the world’s most pressing health care issues. The challenges they faced was helping sales reps learn and retain high volumes of complex, job-critical information. Staying up to date with all the variety of products and their ever-changing complexity, and having the confidence to converse with highly skilled surgeons that were constantly throwing difficult questions at them was no easy task.
ETHICON used Axonify’s Microlearning solution to empower more than 1,000 medical sales reps to train daily in 3- to 5-minute bursts on their mobile devices.
Read the full case study.

3.   

UBER ®, the rapidly growing private taxi ordering company was looking for a training solution that will help them improve service quality amongst drivers, reduce the number of support calls from drivers to their call centers, and increase their productivity and satisfaction levels.
They used Edume as their Microlearning platform to support their drivers. The solution included Bite-sized, interactive sessions that showed driver-partners how to use the Uber app and provide tips on delivering excellent customer service. Moreover, they can access this information at their convenience from their smartphones.
Read the full case study.

 

Is Microlearning A Good Fit For Your Business?

When deciding whether to use Microlearning strategies, it’s important to consider both your business needs and the needs of your learners. Before going forward with a Microlearning solution, consider answering the following questions:

What kind of content will I include in the training?

Actionable content that can be broken into small pieces lends itself well to using Microlearning strategies. However, abstract or complex material which may be more difficult for learners to grasp may need a blended solution. Such solutions will require the development of longer training formats to build foundational knowledge while deploying Microlearning pieces for targeted, actionable content.

What technology will I use to make your training available?

Not all learning management systems manage Microlearning well. Microlearning ’s effectiveness depends in part on ease of access. If a learner can’t quickly find what they’re looking for and consume it right when they need it, it’s less likely that they’ll put the effort in to access and use short training pieces. To deploy Microlearning assets optimally, your learning management system should be easily searchable and provide excellent tagging so that learners can find what they need. Also, if possible, having the capacity to share Microlearning assets through social networking will increase the use and success of Microlearning assets.

Who are my learners?

When choosing a training strategy, it’s essential to start with your learners’ needs and contexts in mind. While Microlearning can be a highly effective strategy across all generations, younger learners or learners who are more technologically savvy may be more comfortable using Microlearning assets than those who use digital devices less frequently. Further, web-based Microlearning depends on learners having web-enabled devices readily available while they work, since this training works best when consumed in an on-the-job setting.

Microlearning can be a great way to keep your training fresh, accessible, and relevant.

Need help deciding if Microlearning is right for you? Shoot us an email today!

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