The modern learner, in the form of today’s highly trainable professionals, is pressed for time. Here’s why microlearning can solve the time-constraint problem without sacrificing learnability.

The average learner today is very overwhelmed, distracted, and impatient, as explained in a neat infographic by Josh Bersin. Let’s face it: today’s professionals simply do not have enough time to do everything, all at once. And with the addition of training as a benefit, companies are adamant to train their employees to become better, smarter, and more skilled—as an investment in their human capital. But how can the demanding workplace save room for training when the average learner only has 24 minutes a day to focus on training? Simple: Microlearning.

As training evolves alongside the development of learning technologies, companies are finding more effective yet efficient ways to deliver their training to their employees. Through microlearning, companies are able to achieve their training ROI because it specifically targets the modern learner’s needs. How? Here are a few ways.

The need: Instantaneous access to learning.

With microlearning, training becomes learner-focused. It empowers learners to train whenever they want, wherever they want, in as little or as much time as they want. This flexibility also provides a benefit that is often overlooked by companies: the learner’s initiative. With microlearning, learners themselves want to train. They want to access these training modules. They make the first move. This is contrary to traditional training methods that “force” employees to attend physical or virtual classroom sessions at certain hours of a day, breaking their work momentum or requiring them to pay attention at times when they’re either overwhelmed or distracted or have other things in mind. With microlearning, learners are sure to have the initiative and focus to pay attention to what they’re about to learn.

Cornerstone OnDemand senior director echoed the same sentiment, telling Software Advice that in this day and age, “Learning now needs to be contextual or embedded—to happen at the moment of need.” Gone are the days that training is a one-size fits all program that “[spits] out something that you don’t want, at a moment that you probably don’t need it. The learning needs to be given to me in a place and time when I can use it. That place and time could be with a mobile device.”

The need: Higher rates of engagement.

This is more for the company than the learner, but higher engagement rates would also impact the level at which learners absorb the new skills they’re learning. Adobe reports that with microlearning, there’s at least 50% more engagement from learners. A Software Advice report also revealed that about 50% of surveyed employees admitted that they would be more inclined to benefit from their company’s learning tools if the modules were divided into smaller, easily digestible chunks of knowledge. With higher rates of engagement, learners are able to take advantage of the benefit extended to them by their companies and in turn, learn new skills that make them perform even better, making them more highly promotable employees and enabling them to advance in their careers.

The need: A more efficient rate of knowledge transfer.

When it comes to training, it’s not enough that employees attend classes, study materials, or do practice. The true test of a training program’s effectivity is how trained employees can apply their skills in a real-life, professional setting. With today’s rapidly changing markets, the demand for higher level skills is also on the rise. That’s why training must keep up, and this is how microlearning can help. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that learning through smaller modules can, in fact, increase knowledge transfer by as much as 17%. That means employees learn 17% faster than any other training method and its effectivity is linked to how today’s learners’ brains are wired.

Northwestern University professor of cognitive design and New Value Streams Consulting founder Mark Clare told Software Advice that “Micro-learning is a necessary step in the cognitive process of learning from experience or making behavior changes.” He pointed out that the reason why people are so engaged in YouTube and other short-form media is that these “provide the micro-content that is more properly sized to the limitations of learning processes. They fit how our minds naturally work.”

The key to any effective training program is getting learners to pay attention, stay engaged, and in the long run, be able to absorb new skills that are applicable in the workplace. Through microlearning, companies are able to save time and resources without sacrificing learnability and instead achieve a greater ROI.


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