Every successful company needs employees with the right skills, and being able to deliver these skills to your employees in the right way is more important than ever in today’s competitive business landscape.
In spite of this great need for new skills, internal training programs just don’t meet the standard of most employees.
A Capgemini and LinkedIn study found that more than half of all employees reported that they found the training programs run by their company to be unhelpful, “useless and boring” or they are not given time to attend.
Furthermore, the average employee only has time to devote 1 percent of their work week to professional development, Deloitte reports. For those who work 40 hours a week, this translates to just 4.8 minutes a day.
With the digital skills gap projected to cost the UK alone £141 billion in GDP growth, it’s clear that the way you deliver your training matters more than ever.
Thankfully, there is a way to meet the skill needs of the future while taking into account the needs of busy, 21st-century workers: microlearning.
What is microlearning?
Microlearning features short, focused lessons designed to meet a specific learning objective. Lessons are between three to six minutes long and often are made up of rich media like videos, quizzes, and games.
The microlearning format is well suited to online training, as it offers the flexibility and convenience sought after by today’s time-strapped learners.
Microlearning courses can be used for a variety of training, from computer skills like Excel, to project management and leadership, as well as company onboarding and industry-specific compliance training.
Microlearning has been shown to increase engagement by 50 percent and boost knowledge retention while cutting development costs by half. With stats like these, it’s no wonder that 8 out of 10 L&D professionals choose microlearning as their preferred method for their learners.
Microlearning content can vary depending on the course, and the way course creators want their learners to learn.
Common microlearning examples include a combination of the following types of content:
Using short videos to teach learners a single skill is helpful because they can feel a sense of accomplishment that they learned something new in a short space of time. Breaking up lessons into 3-6 minute chunks also gives them the flexibility to devote small blocks of time to learning, even if their schedule is quite busy.
Using short sound bites is particularly useful when learning a new language. Using audio microlearning techniques helps learners retain knowledge because it is easier for them to memorize what was said.
Text can be adapted to microlearning principles by way of cheat sheets, summaries, and other compressed pieces of written information to give learners the most important takeaways from a lesson or other types of learning content. The longer courseware is still useful for full explanations, but a summary tells the learner what are the key ideas to remember.
Images are an important element of microlearning, as they help to illustrate points from the videos or text and form a visual memory for someone learning about a new concept. Doing this creates multiple associations for the learner and caters to different learning styles.
Quizzes test learners' knowledge and also add a bit of interactivity to learning. They are an important element of microlearning as they can help learners and instructors measure the result of their efforts and set targets for improvement.
Gamification is the addition of reward elements to learning in a way that encourages learners to continue. Gamification can be incorporated by means of leaderboards, points, unlocking levels, and similar techniques that add fun to the learning process. Gamification can even be used to offer tangible rewards.
By incorporating as many of these microlearning principles as possible in their learning and development program, organizations can harness the power of bite-sized learning. Microlearning leads to positive results both for learners and the organizations where they apply their skills. Let's take a look at a few.
Benefits of microlearning for learners
1. A catered learning approach
Because of the modular nature of microlearning courses, learners have the flexibility to focus on lessons that matter the most to them. Each lesson aims to achieve one or a few learning targets. This gives course creators the flexibility to create different types of content for each lesson (e.g., videos, summary sheets, exercise files, quizzes, and games). This variety of content allows learners to take in information in a way that suits them best.
All courses on GoSkills come with a placement quiz, allowing learners to test out of modules they have already mastered and focus on the ones that might need more time.
2. Just-in-time learning
Have you ever looked up a fact to end a dinner table debate? Or looked up Yelp reviews to find the best dishes to order at a restaurant? Or Googled synonyms, so your article sounds more riveting?
If you said yes to any of the above, you would have engaged with some form of just-in-time learning.
What microlearning does is move that concept to the workplace. With access to a microlearning course, learners are equipped to learn skills and find solutions as soon as they need them. This style of learning is particularly useful for employees who need information available on the spot. Employees like this tend to work in industries such as healthcare, retail, or call centers.
Knowing that “orange” was first used to describe the fruit, not the color is a fact that would have been irrelevant to know until its etymology becomes the subject of a dinner table debate. If you learned that fact 30 days before that conversation, it would likely be forgotten.
This brings us to the next benefit – higher retention rates.
3. Higher learning retention
According to Hermann Ebbinghaus’ ‘Forgetting Curve,’ we forget 80 percent of what we have learned in 30 days. This means traditional forms of learning (e.g., one-off seminars, classroom training) may have limited ROI, as well as being costly for businesses and time-consuming for learners. Microlearning can work as standalone training or supplement formal training to extend the lifespan of information.
Microlearning improves retention of information for three key reasons: courses are accessible on-demand, modules are short, and they are designed to be actionable.
As opposed to classroom-based training, microlearning can be accessed online at any time and anywhere. This means information can be obtained at the point of need, thereby increasing its stickiness.
Our brains aren’t made to maintain focus for long periods. Microlearning accommodates that with modules that are intentionally short to match our working memory capacity. This prevents cognitive overload, which is especially useful when learning about difficult topics.
Finally, bite-sized lessons are intentionally designed to meet a narrowly defined learning outcome. This sets up each lesson to be highly actionable. In this microlearning example, learners can view a lesson on creating PivotTables. In it, they can test their skills with the exercise file and quiz just seconds after they learn about it.
New information in our working memory is temporary. It is either encoded in our long term memory, decays, or gets replaced. When we attend to and integrate information in our working memory, it becomes encoded in our long-term memory.
As mentioned above, microlearning modules can be accessed at any time and from anywhere. Learners can start a module at work, access it on their mobile while commuting, and continue learning on a tablet at home.
This flexibility democratizes learning for those who are especially time-poor (e.g., new parents and commuters).
Axonify’s 2018 report found a high level of microlearning adoption in retail (27 percent), manufacturing & logistics (25 percent) and finance & insurance (22 percent), as well as telecommunications, healthcare, call centers, and pharmaceuticals. The report attributes this to the “disproportionately large concentration of deskless workers” in these industries.
5. Self-paced learning
Think back to the last time you took a course in a group setting. There were probably some concepts you grasped quickly and some that could have benefitted with extra time. Classroom courses are designed to match the average pace of learning in the room. This means that fast learners can lose interest in the content, and slower learners can get stuck playing catch-up. Microlearning eliminates this problem because learners can go through the material at their own pace.
6. More engaging learning content
Each micro lesson sets out to achieve a narrow learning outcome. This gives course creators the flexibility to utilize more engaging methods of transferring information – like videos, storytelling, and games.
Gamification tactics can integrate into microlearning – where learners can earn badges or experience points to make learning more sticky.
Axonify’s 2018 report found that “employees exposed to gameplay and game mechanics participate at a rate of 52 percent more, experiencing average knowledge increases of 27 percent.”
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Benefits of microlearning for businesses
7. Higher ROI
A primary concern with online learning is low retention and completion rates. This is not the case with microlearning. The 2018 Axonify report shows that three-quarters of employees (74 percent) voluntarily engage in 106 microlearning training sessions per year.
According to a Software Advice report, more than 50 percent of respondents indicated that they would use their company’s learning tools more if the courses are shorter. According to them, longer courses are not only more challenging to digest and retain but taking them also gets in the way of their daily work.
The 2018 Axonify report also noted that businesses that allow employees to train on mobile devices saw training frequency increase by 42 percent.
8. Lower development costs
Businesses also benefit from employing microlearning in their learning and development programs. Not only does it have a higher ROI in terms of higher retention rates, but it’s also less costly than traditional forms of training.
According to learning architect Ray Jimenez, Ph.D., learning teams that use microlearning can reduce development costs by 50 percent and increase the speed of development by 300 percent. This is because:
- There are fewer overheads in micro course creation as opposed to traditional offline training. There is no need to rent classrooms, pay for instructors’ time, and purchase classroom equipment.
- It is easier and less time consuming to update digital information, especially if the content is short and modular. Businesses can replace outdated lessons with updated versions without overhauling the entire course.
9. Ease of distribution
Microlearning modules are far easier to distribute than longer-form elearning modules. Smaller sized files are more easily uploaded onto the cloud, which means that content can be accessed anywhere.
Moving learning and development initiatives online means that a growing sector of the workforce – remote workers – are not excluded from company benefits. One way businesses can do this is by migrating learning content onto a cloud-based LMS that can be accessed anywhere.
Over to you
Not only does microlearning address the needs of the future while meeting 21st-century learners where they are, but it also comes with a multitude of benefits for learners and businesses alike.
According to the Association for Talent Development 2017 report, 81 percent of the organizations surveyed are currently using or planning to begin using microlearning to support their employees.
Don’t get left behind – start microlearning now.
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