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Is microlearning the answer to the skills gap?

Leveraging the power of microlearning to upskill your workforce

March 27, 2020 | By: David Fulle

african american young adult using a laop top for microlearning

Recently, my Microsoft Outlook updated to Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, and the Scheduling Assistant for arranging meetings had been moved. I needed to Google a quick video to show me where the Scheduling Assistant now lived. The video was under five minutes, just enough time to learn how and fix the issue.

Learning tasks in short snippets has gone viral. In today’s fast-paced workplace, it can be difficult for employees to find the time to take a class or put aside a couple of hours to fully engage on a topic. According to the Association for Talent Development, the average learner has about 1% of their time available each week to devote to professional development. While technologies and roles keep changing, it’s important to keep employees engaged, ready and able to learn. The best way to accomplish this for always-on-the-go learners is microlearning—a bite-sized approach to learning that is engaging, flexible, time-efficient and (often) cost-efficient.

What is microlearning?

Microlearning, in short, is consuming tiny, easily digestible snippets of information on a topic. Ideally, microlearning is one to five minutes long and can be produced in a variety of forms, such as text, images, videos, audio, tests and games. The theory around microlearning goes back to grade school when we learned by repeating and reusing information. Short, repetitive snippets of learning can lead to long-term understanding and application.

Shorter attention spans demand shorter snippets of information targeted at a specific performance objective. With busy schedules, most training takes place while employees are on the job trying to complete a task. Microlearning is a great opportunity to communicate information and provide learning in the moment of need. This can be especially helpful during employee onboarding and skills training on soft skills, task-based application usage and more.

The expectation that employees take long e-learning courses and master a subject by the end has been replaced with the idea that employees have access to short snippets of content that provide information as the employee needs it and can be revisited time and time again.

How to identify good microlearning opportunities:

  • Is it targeted? Good microlearning topics are aligned to one discrete objective and focused on one identifiable performance, skill, concept or task.
  • Can it be bite-sized? Microlearning must be consumable in tiny bursts of time. Each module should be short (less than 10 minutes) so content is easily digestible. If the topic is too in-depth—i.e., will take more than 10 minutes to complete—then microlearning is not the correct outlet.
  • Can it be accessed on demand? Content must be easily accessible during a moment of need or as someone is performing the associate
  • Is it engaging? Even in short bursts, learning must always be engaging and appropriate to the task. Using techniques such as demos, storytelling scenarios, videos and animations can help ensure the message is communicated and understood.
  • Is it learner-centric? Effective microlearning uses context, scenarios or a situational approach based on the audience to engage the learner and help them retain the information.

There are many authoring tools that can be used to create microlearning, such as Camtasia, Captivate, Storyline, WalkMe and Rise, that make the development of microlearning quick and easy for learning and development (L&D) professionals as well as non-L&D subject matter experts. A good, quick video in MP4 format that communicates how to perform a task can be extremely powerful and part of your overall learning strategy of providing content in the moment of need. This can be for simple tasks, such as installing a new printer cartridge, to more complex tasks, such as how to perform a series of steps in a new application.

Why organizations are turning to microlearning in the workplace

According to ABC News, we’re experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. Technology skill training has increased to prepare workers for the evolving technology changes that are impacting their roles. Faster and just-in-time training allows employers and employees to fill skill gaps in a resource-efficient manner.

Microlearning benefits include:

  • Easier, faster and cheaper to develop
  • Faster to consume
  • Flexible, and provides learners with freedom to skip topics they may already knowBoosts knowledge retention
  • Doesn’t have to sit on your corporate learning management system
  • Allows for natural breaks and reflection
  • Fosters continuous learning

Microlearning can also be part of an overall change management strategy to communicate a change. It has multiple facets, outlets and use cases. Whether you’re using microlearning to engage a large change or teach employees a minor task, we hope this helps you determine and develop what is right for your learners.

David Fulle is a learning solution architect within TEKsystems Global Services. He’s spent the last 16 years building innovative learning and adoption solutions that address complex business challenges. These programs focus on building a future workforce with tomorrow’s skills, upskilling and reskilling current teams, or changing behavior needed to impact productivity.

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