Everybody hates company training days. And if you can relate to the thought of being herded into a room and talked at for a day, spare a thought for the Human Resources people who have to organise them: it’s one thing to get several people to respond to a meeting request but it’s something else to get an entire workforce to a specific place at a specific time, especially if there are thousands of employees and many of them work remotely (even internationally).
The rise of eLearning has helped modernise matters, but the technology has somewhat stalled. Computer-based courseware has not advanced much in the past 15 years and it still commonly comprises of long, boring multiple-choice sessions with completion rates that frequently struggle to push past 20 per cent. In many ways, the lack of social element makes it even less engaging than traditional boring training days.
The nature of the eLearning industry means things will be slow to change. Training is often designed by special courseware companies who sell subscriptions to the content. In order to maximise the market size, cutting-edge, interactive features are eschewed in favour of lowest-common-denominator file formats that are compatible with as many organisations’ Learning Management Systems as possible. This typically means using the aging SCORM file format which was invented at the turn of the Millennium.
There are multiple, additional problems with external companies producing ‘content for all.’ Firstly, the instructional designers that make it are creating one-size-fits-all courses that tend to offer only general training insights: it’s frequently neither personalised nor tailored to an organisation’s own employees. It’s also less likely to get updated meaning it’s common to see case studies cited that go back many years and are hard to relate to. Furthermore, the person who designed the course will rarely get any feedback as to how successful their work was – there may be a formal meeting to discuss matters down the line, but it’s rare that authors will be able to make lesson adjustments based upon live analytics (or recent events).
This is where microlearning is becoming more popular and the training industry is well aware of it. Just days ago, the largest player in this space, Grovo, was bought for $24 million by training course provider, Cornerstone Content. Other microlearning entities offer the ability for companies to create their own lessons by adding existing material to interactive templates that can be delivered direct to workers’ own smartphones.
Nonetheless, while it’s getting more popular, microlearning is commonly used to augment existing eLearning systems rather than replace them: C-Suite and HR managers are loath to abandon their potentially-massive investments in eLearning altogether. Regardless of this, whether the goal is to distribute new knowledge or reinforce existing knowledge, there are key reasons why embracing microlearning will remedy boring training practices and make company learning more effective.
5 reasons why boring training courses are being killed by microlearning
1. Easy on the brain: Research shows that short-term memory can only hold about four items of new information. After that, information is overwritten or shunted out before it can be transferred to long-term memory. Consequently, by reducing topics into small, bite-sized chunks, new knowledge becomes more-easily retained. It’s why learning the first 10 digits of Pi is difficult when it is presented as 3.141592653 but more manageable when presented in three chunks: 3.141 592 653. Breaking complex topics down into small microlessons works in the same way.
2. Easy to create and update: Boring training courses can take many weeks to create. However, when a microlesson consists of just a few key messages (that can be embedded within templates) it’s possible to design a course in the morning and distribute it in the afternoon. What’s more, if a more-relevant case study appears on last night’s news, it can be easily slotted into an existing course thereby keeping it fresh, up-to-date, relatable and engaging.
3. Effectiveness: Microlearning courses can be performed on employees’ own smartphones which provide a handy touchscreen, considerable computing power plus the ability to learn at one’s own pace. The technology means lessons can easily be made interactive and even gamified to the point where the learner doesn’t feel like they’re doing training in the first place. Add to this point scoring for correct answers and fast completion times plus the ability to award real prizes for the best performers and suddenly you find learners are re-taking courses to get better scores – it’s common to see 90+ per cent completion rates with microlearning courses. Whether you want to teach workers how to perform a simple task or give an update on a new corporate policy, gamification and interactivity are effective ways to get learners retaining knowledge. It’s literally the antithesis of boring training.
4. Easy to distribute: Colossal courseware does not lend itself to widespread distribution no matter how good the broadband infrastructure being used is. Conversely, microlearning-based training courses can be downloaded anywhere via the cloud (usually via one of the major App Stores). This also opens the door to on-demand training (called just-in-time training by the L&D industry) whereby learners can easily download a specific microlesson minutes before they need it.
5. Anyone can create a lesson: Microlearning can make use of interactive templates which means creating a lesson simply involves uploading information and asking questions about it. As such, it’s a great enabler of Peer Learning. Experts suggest that one-third of all eLearning should come from colleagues and it’s not hard to see why: no external trainer will know more about specific functions of your organisation than the people already within it. For instance, while traditional eLearning courses may tell sales people to dress smart and be polite, a lesson created by one of your own senior sales people (even one with minimal L&D experience) that tells colleagues about a particular client who always arrives 10 minutes early, likes their coffee a certain way and doesn’t like talking about particular issues, is going to be much more engaging and effective at imparting knowledge to workers. Personalised learning like this doesn’t just make training more effective, workers are more loyal when they feel valued and given the opportunity to grow (while good employees are more likely to leave if they aren’t.)
All in all, microlearning is empowering HR managers and CIOs alike: the combination of HR-based training practices, new technology and the move to a constantly-evolving L&D strategy (rather than a huge, expensive, periodic splurge) enables them to work closer together and more-easily create their own tailored courseware. Employees find this move away from boring training significantly more engaging and corporate learning subsequently becomes dramatically more effective.
Darren Winterford is CEO of Ed Microlearning.
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