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Microlearning as a tool for employee training has been around for a few years now. But it’s only since in the last four or five years has the concept taken off in a big way.

A few years back, Domino’s launched a gamified micro-course for franchise owners to quickly and interactively train their workers on making pizzas faster and more accurately. Similarly, Walmart Logistics, the distribution arm of the retail giant deployed gamified microlearning methods to train over 75,000 workers on safety awareness.

The Growth in Microlearning Popularity

So why exactly is microlearning making news so frequently of late? It is being argued that microlearning is highly adapted to the modern lifestyle which requires accelerated learning methods. This need is pinned on the attention deficit of the millennial work crowd who do not prefer traditional learning techniques. But as some researches have shown, such claims are only partially true.

The growth in popularity of microlearning has got more to do with the benefits that this pedagogical approach offers rather than anything to do with the learners’ ability. One of the biggest reasons for the rise in microlearning adoption is its productive use of time.

This is especially true in the case of training programs that hone up an employee’s skills rather than train them from scratch. That is, micro-learning is ideally suited for the knowledgeable and experienced employee who may not have the time to go through a complete course. It helps them brush up on topics that they are already familiar with.

This is the reason why some organizations are relying on microlearning to reskill and upskill their employees. Besides the fact that you must identify the skill gaps of each of your thousands of employees, and train them appropriately, you must also create a training schedule that does not hinder daily operations. Establishing a training program for thousands of employees is no easy task.

Another big reason for its popularity is capacity utilization. One study found that modern-day employee only has about 20 minutes a week to focus on training and development.

Microlearning makes it possible to train employees with minimal operational impact. The average microlearning session extends for not more than 3 to 5 minutes. Also, most microlearning courses are self-taught. That is, the learners are not expected to attend a classroom session.

This makes it possible for organizations to allow their employees to learn and complete courses at their own pace; at their schedule. When your employees do not need extended breaks to upgrade their skills, organizations can manage training programs without much impact on worker schedules.

Workplace Training - Employee Attrition Problem-Educated Wokforce-accelerated learning

Where Microlearning Is Best Suited

Although microlearning is also used in a lot of organizations for employee induction and onboarding, it is better suited for upskilling and occasionally reskilling. A lot of employee induction programs focus on acclimatizing the learner to the industry and ecosystem of the business. Also, such induction programs are only aimed at a small fraction of the workforce and hence do not have a significant impact on the operations.

Reskilling programs, on the other hand, are targeted at entire departments within an organization. Also, unlike induction programs that have tight deadlines, such training programs do not have short deadlines. This makes it possible for organizations to allow learners to train at their own pace.

The impact of microlearning on your HR training practices can be measured regarding the pedagogical ROI. The Kirkpatrick model of training evaluation suggests four levels to evaluate a training program. They are Reaction, Learning, Behavior, and Results.

In the first level, the training program is assessed based on the learners’ reaction to the module. Highly engaging and relevant programs are thus rated highly at this level. This is followed by an assessment of the degree to which the learner has acquired the intended lessons. But the theoretical acquisition of knowledge is only one part.

The Kirkpatrick model also assesses the practical application (behaviour) of the learned lessons by the worker in their job. Finally, the training module is evaluated by the overall impact of the program on the learner.

It Impact on Learners

Microlearning performs well on the Kirkpatrick model. From a learner’s perspective, microlearning finds huge favour thanks to the dramatically lower time it takes for them to get through the content. When combined with quick assessments, microlearning directly fulfils the first two levels of Kirkpatrick’s training evaluation framework.

Microlearning is seldom used as a standalone system but is often integrated with gamification and personalization techniques. These techniques tend to assist in the greater application of learning and thereby have a demonstrable impact on business. In a way then, microlearning tends to help meet the top tiers of the Kirkpatrick evaluation framework.

In addition to this, microlearning also has a proven impact on the engagement of the learners. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology noted that bite-sized learning techniques made transmission of information from the trainer to the learner more efficient by 17%. Not surprisingly then, an overwhelming number of learners to prefer microlearning over other forms of training.

It is worth noting that the ROI of a training process includes not only the learner productivity but also the cost of producing the training materials. Learning architect Ray Jiminez claims that microlearning courses can be created in 300% less time than traditional classes and also cost 50% less. Given these cost benefits, organizations are at a much better position to tweak and experiment with content to measure effectiveness and thus embark on continually improving the efficiency of the training materials.

Microlearning training techniques may have started making a mark in enterprise organizations only in the past few years, but trainers and educators across the world have long realized their potential impact. It is time more organizations switched from traditional learning methods to microlearning – not only does it improve learner efficiency, but also has an overall positive effect on the ROI of the entire training process.

Written By
Shawn Arora is the founder of LaunchSpark, a Toronto-based explainer video agency with a focus on ROI. LaunchSpark works with SaaS / tech vendors to distill complex messaging into clear and concise insights that increase conversion rates.

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