What do modern day learners want?

In a world where we have access to highly advanced, fast moving technologies, learners do not have the time or inclination to sit down in a classroom and passively listen to what a teacher has to say. For this reason, corporate training is not as effective or influential as it once was.

But before businesses throw in the training towel altogether, they should consider adopting an alternative approach, which embraces technology rather than shunning it. While numerous options are on the table, microlearning is proving to be the training technique of choice among modern day learners.

In addition to providing learners with a solution that fits into their busy lives, offers a great deal of flexibility and the ultimate in interactivity, microlearning also affords several advantages for businesses too. It cuts down development costs, reduces time-to-competence, provides more flexibility when it comes to creating learning materials and results in greater knowledge retention.

But in spite of these benefits, the training possibilities that microlearning can bring are not being fully realised by some businesses. However, the obstacles that stand in the way of implementation are actually rather easy to overcome.

Microlearning recap

As opposed to prolonged training programs, microlearning splits up teaching into more manageable, bite-sized chunks. These focused groups of activities are much quicker to complete and easier to consume. Even so, this doesn’t mean to say you can splice up your current formal training activities to realise the rewards of microlearning, as it requires a different framework.

On top of this, microlearning isn’t about thrusting complete responsibility onto your learners to fend for themselves. Although there is the opportunity to use social learning tools and online resources as part of microlearning, it needs to be within a coherent and considered structure that works alongside a curated selection of content.

The science behind microlearning

In 1956, psychologist George A. Miller conducted the first piece of research that proved we learn more effectively in short bursts rather than long sessions. He explained that our short-term memories could only hold seven “chunks” of information, although recent MRI research suggests this is closer to four. Miller also demonstrated that when knowledge is broken down into smaller pieces, it could help with comprehension.

However, long before Miller made this discovery, another psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus made the distinction between short- and long-term memory. His work on the forgetting curve and spacing effect highlighted why learning solutions needed to include reinforcement methods and regular practice spread out over time to avoid fatigue and consolidate memory. 

Both of these psychologists provided the building blocks for microlearning, which breaks down lengthy teaching into small chunks in a variety of formats. When combined with adequate spacing and the repetition of content, learners can acquire knowledge with greater comprehension. It also gets rid of unnecessary superfluous information and concentrates on essential topics instead.

This plays into the hands of what modern day learner’s want. Technology allows for formats that learners are comfortable with, while spacing and repetition enables training to take place at a suitable time. But the virtues of microlearning extend to training providers too, not just the individual.

Additional advantages of microlearning

  • Cheap to introduce

Seeing as microlearning is concerned with small chunks of content, training becomes much cheaper to create and introduce. Any changes or updates that need to be made don’t require much money either.

  • Quicker to implement

Microlearning content and materials can be produced and implemented incredibly quickly. There is no need for content development, as learning designers can easily curate existing materials.

  • More agility

If the training you need to give staff is constantly changing, microlearning holds the answer. It allows you to deliver updated content instantly and experiment with different approaches for a more agile business.

  • More mobile

Most microlearning solutions are compatible with mobile devices, enabling individuals to complete their training at a time and place that suits them, from the daily commute to at home after work.

Overcoming the obstacles of microlearning

For many, adopting a microlearning approach instead of sticking with traditional training techniques can seem a little daunting. Irrespective of the perks it can provide, several organisations believe they will lose control over their training activity.

After all, if there is no dedicated environment to develop and deliver microlearning, how can you manage and monitor training or find out whether employees are progressing or not? Furthermore, the learners themselves might not know what, when, and how they should be interacting with training.

However, modern technology holds the key. Microlearning training providers like Wranx have developed platforms that can be adapted by any organisation, yet retain a rigid framework for control over content and activity. Learners known that training takes place here, but can also reach out for support whenever it is required.

Our microlearning platform also features reporting tools to manage content and insightful analytics to monitor progress. Learning materials can then be changed and updated according to each individual’s requirements.

As Miller and Ebbinghaus alluded to, learning that happens in small chunks also needs to be diverse. But our offering features formats such as quizzes and techniques like gamification to keep learners interested in what is being taught.

Therefore, the obstacles that sit in front of microlearning adoption aren’t even that substantial when you know about the solution.

Making the switch to microlearning

With the ability to reduce time and costs as well as increase engagement and memory retention among employees, microlearning can have a significant impact on your organisation and its overall objectives.

However, you must drop any preconceived ideas that training is an independent exercise, which employees only need to experience once. For microlearning to work, it is essential you realise that training must be an ongoing activity.

Thankfully, technology is on hand to facilitate this shift, which learners are all too happy to accept. As Deloitte explains in its 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report:

“Learning today has become a business-critical priority for increasing skills, improving the leadership pipeline, and enhancing employee engagement. As the corporate learning market undergoes a digital transformation, this is the year to assess your current learning environment and implement a new vision to build a corporate learning experience that touches every employee in a significant way.”

Written by: Persia Shahkarami

Persia is passionate about helping organizations improve employee engagement across their professional development initiatives.
Published: 22 Dec, 2015