Microlearning: The Future Of Professional Development

Originally Published in Forbes, Mar 19th, 2020

From dawn to dusk: That’s how long the average adult spends on-screen — about 11 hours daily.

At the same time, corporate trainers are trying to grab employee attention long enough to educate them and ensure the information sticks. Tools like EJ4 let viewers watch five- to 10-minute training videos, while Google Primer provides five-minute interactive lessons on the go, and our platform, The Training Arcade®, offers three- to five-minute microgames to reinforce information and assess learner knowledge. Each of these bite-sized and user-friendly tools takes the limited time (and attention) users have into account.

Microlearning

This reframing of content through microlearning can be easily applied to any corporate training program. Instead of long, constantly interrupted courses, microlearning is brief and easily digestible. It’s ultra-focused with precise, measurable goals. Above all, microlearning helps make training simple and fun.

Is it necessary to update tried-and-true training methods? We say yes. Millennials are claiming the place of baby boomers as America’s largest adult generation, and as digital natives, they think differently. That’s why passive training doesn’t always work anymore. Across multiple platforms, microlearning can increase learner engagement with audio, video and games without wasting valuable time.

Microlearning is built on cognitive science. It uses spaced repetition, a proven retention-boosting method of breaking down learning topics into more manageable pieces and repeating them with adequate spacing between lessons. This learning technique accesses the learner’s working memory bank, which makes microlearning worth consideration for any employer seeking to teach candidates hard skills.

Let’s explore industries that have implemented microlearning:

Manufacturing And Transportation

Through a combination of retiring experts, rapidly advancing technologies and underskilled newcomers, these industries are facing an uphill battle when it comes to training. Keurig Dr Pepper has acquired a number of distributors and bottlers over the years, resulting in a geographically dispersed workforce and different standards of business. In an effort to train employees on a standard way of doing business, the company developed a series of brief training videos available on desktop and mobile that cover a variety of topics, including HR compliance, sales techniques, and communication skills.

Technology

As an industry leader on the pulse of what’s next, it’s easy to see why Google entered the microlearning space. In 2014, the technology giant launched Google Primer, a free mobile app with five-minute interactive lessons designed to empower startups and small businesses with knowledge about search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), content marketing, audience measurement, branding, business planning and many other subjects. Courses can be taken on the go, in a plane, on the subway, at a coffee shop or just about anywhere else. Today, over 10 million learners have downloaded the app.

Healthcare And Pharmaceutical

Healthcare professionals deal with high-demand situations every day: long hours, patients in need and sometimes life-or-death situations. Our firm created Dr. Neb, a game that helps clinicians who treat patients with uncontrolled COPD to identify the best solution to prescribe. These games offer a series of branching dialogue, virtual conversations between doctors and patients, laid out with a storybook narrative much like a comic book with voice bubbles.

Merck, a multinational pharmaceutical company, leveraged Axonify’s microlearning, gamification and adaptive learning platform across 52 global manufacturing sites to improve its safety culture. With an 80% voluntary participation rate, the company saw a decrease in recordable incidents and a decrease in lost time injury frequency rates.

Microlearning Tools to Consider

Beyond games and videos, here are a few solutions worth considering when creating your microlearning strategy.

1. Animations

Animation is a powerful tool to use when creating a microlearning course. In a recent study published in Neuron, researchers discovered that the brain absorbs about 80% of an environment’s sensory information. This “hyperdigestion” is why corporations and government institutions like Cleveland Water utilize video-creation services like Vyond, Powtoon or Moovly to produce studio-level videos.

Learners are easily distracted by texts, instant messages, emails, social media, phone calls, fitness trackers, etc. This means every second counts. When fighting for their attention and retention, a well-crafted video enables you to pull your audience away from everyday distractions and deliver memorable content. By creating videos with relatable characters, environments, and situations, training leaders can help learners remember concepts and details that they might otherwise forget.

2. Infographics

Infographics help learners digest information, show a hierarchy of data and illustrate a point in a condensed visual manner. Beyond training, IBM uses infographics to streamline recruiting. HR professionals can find infographics tools like Piktochart and Visme handy in building a stronger company culture.

Do you believe the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words? A well-designed infographic is worth even more. Visuals can help learners process information faster and store information longer by appealing to emotions. When designing your infographic, follow these rules:

• Create a headline that clearly states the purpose of the infographic.

• Choose a simple layout with lots of blank space.

• Write clear and concise text.

• Ensure all visuals (e.g., charts and graphics) are clear without explanation.

• Make all fonts and color combinations easy to read and appropriate for the topic.

3. Chatbots

Unfortunately, when it’s time for coaching and reinforcement of training, some teams bristle. Older methods — like dreaded compliance meetings — can feel patronizing, or worse, like a big waste of time. Chatbot platforms, such as Mobile Coach, create chatbots for meaningful outreach and useful conversations on the employee’s schedule. Here’s a webinar we hosted on How to Reduce Learning Friction using games and chatbots.

As consumers, most of us are familiar with chatbots, but this technology has evolved and is being used more and more for new employee onboarding, customer service, sales training, diversity training, and several other topics. Designing a chatbot is as much an art as a science, but when done right, it can be a very effective tool for introducing new concepts, providing reminders, tracking goals and assessing knowledge.

Train The Next Generation With Microlearning

Younger learners will increasingly be joining the workforce, so it’s time for industries across the board to meet their training needs. Companies who do will find themselves ahead of the curve, with employees who are engaged in training and can recall what they’ve learned. Lastly, microlearning and game-based learning have helped organizations improve the ROI on their training programs.

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