Boost workforce development through microlearning
Micro-learning delivers learning nuggets in easily digestible, bite-sized chunks. Learners can access micro-learning as they need it, on the job. Industry expert Josh Bersin describes micro-learning as an ‘amazing innovation’, explaining that microlearning platforms now let you manage the proliferation of video, assessment, and other small content objects with tools for curation, tracking, recommendations, and AI-based prescriptive learning”.
The micro-learning approach can contribute, for example to improving communication skills development within the workforce alongside other emerging technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence (AI) software. These technologies can help build a picture of the learner that not only includes learning patterns, such as modules completed and speed of completion for example, but that also learns about the employee’s interests. Sophisticated software analytics can spot where learners are responding well to topics that resonate with them and serve similar content to individual learners. This makes micro-learning a key part of a process that continuously adapts to learners’ needs as they progress.
There is no doubt that micro-learning offers many benefits, but it is subject to major misconceptions:
- Misconception 1: All traditional learning can be converted to micro learning. Switching to micro-learning is not a panacea for learning and development. Micro-learning is just one tool in the learning professional’s toolkit. Not all learning fits the micro-learning format. Micro-learning really comes into its own in a fast-paced environment, where learners have a requirement to learn in a contextual way. In this case, nuggets of learning delivered at the time and place of need are exactly what are needed. Other types of skills acquisition, however, might call for a more extended learning approach. Micro-learning can play an important part in an organisation’s learning strategy but it should be just that – part but not all of learning delivery.
- Misconception 2: Micro-learning is not suitable for soft skills development. In fact, micro-learning is a highly effective way of soft skills development within the workforce. Small learning nuggets can be really helpful to support language and communications training. For example, providing a useful way of catering to the overwhelmed and time pressed learner who has a specific requirement. It is an excellent way of meeting contextual learning needs on-the-job. A five-minute learning nugget at the right time in the right place can be more effective than a two-day classroom-based training course that ticks lots of boxes, but does not give the learner the support they need. Additionally, if an employee whose first language is not English, attends a meeting at a head office where English is the main language, it would be beneficial for the employee to have access to language learning as they travel to the meeting. Mobile and bite-size learning can help them refresh their business English and vocabulary, and prepare them to discuss upcoming topics.
- Misconception 3: Micro-learning is best suited to tick box type training such as compliance training. In fact, the opposite is true – micro-learning can be highly practical in application. A telecommunications engineer working 20m above ground on a telegraph pole can access a 30 second video that takes them through the steps needed to switch out a part.
- Misconception 4: Micro-learning is inherently more engaging than traditional learning. Micro-learning, particularly when delivered in formats that work well on swipe and tap mobile devices, lends itself well to gamification. Learning professionals can borrow techniques from digital gaming and social media to hook learners into the learning material. But this will only work if the learning content is highly relevant to the learner. Gamification plays an important role, but relevance unlocks engagement.
- Misconception 5: Micro-learning is nice to have, but it is just the icing on the cake. In fact, micro-learning plays a key part in ensuring that learning is retained. It helps address Ebbinghaus’ ‘forgetting curve’, whereby learners begin to forget information they have learned within days and lose it altogether within weeks, unless the learning is refreshed at intervals.
The curation challenge
The big challenge with micro-learning is curation of the content. One of the major benefits of micro-learning is the ability of learners themselves to access content at the point of need. Learning professionals have a very important role in making sure that they are providing the right content that learners can find when they need it. Towards Maturity research¹ found that only 13% of companies have a learning content curation strategy, but 51% of top performing learning organizations do. Curation must be ongoing to ensure relevance; 87% of top performing organizations regularly review learning content to make sure it is aligned with business goals, with 82% removing material that is no longer relevant.
As a more responsive learner-led environment replaces the traditional top-down delivery of learning and development, it is increasingly important to get micro-learning right. Learning nuggets have a place on the menu as part of a balanced delivery of learning and development that can achieve real business results.
Discuss this topic and learn more about microlearning at Speexx Exchange Berlin 2018, where top industry leaders will dive into the most relevant trends in the industry.
About the author
Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx. Speexx helps large organisations everywhere to drive productivity by empowering employee communication skills across borders. It offers an award-winning range of cloud-based online language learning solutions for Business English, Spanish, German, Italian and French. More than 8 million users in 1,500 organisations use Speexx to learn a language smarter and deliver results on time. For more information, visit www.speexx.com.
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