24/09/2014

By Ben Muzzell, Co-Founder, Looop


Bigger isn’t always better — when it comes to training, the opposite is true.

To most organisations today, employee training means great big formal initiatives complete with instructors, manuals, presentations and sessions that run on for hours.

These large programmes have the “thud” factor; they feel tangible and impressive. Organisations who pay handsomely for these resources want to be able to point to stacks of material and say: “See how extensive our training is! See how much we’re doing?”

But this belief is outdated, cumbersome and inefficient — and now research is proving it.

Staff can’t concentrate
Researchers found years ago that the average student has only 10 to 18 minutes of optimal focus before their ability to learn wanes. Further work has found that students have much better recall of what they learned in the first 15 minutes of a class or learning session - after this point, most simply zone out.

Not fit for purpose
All that time and energy spent building lengthy sessions is having far less impact than managers think. It’s been widely discussed that workshop and classroom-based learning isn’t necessarily the most effective way of training - largely because it only covers about 10 to 20% of what employees really need to know to do their job - but little has been done to provide a better solution.

Draining company resources
The existing training process is clunky and hasn’t seemingly taken into consideration these industry research findings. An instructor must prepare all of the material, book a room, take time out of their day, deliver the material and grade the work. Those sessions aren’t adding value — they’re just eating up time and budget, while giving learners more than they can actually digest.

While such training schemes tend to deliver periodically - perhaps once a quarter - in reality, we all actually go on learning through every day. But little of this development takes place in the training room - we develop most of the workplace skills we need in short, informal situations, like exchanges with peers, quick-fire research, active observation or even trial and error. It’s unplanned, unofficial and ad-hoc.

This method of learning is overlooked and discounted because there’s a lot less “thud” factor, which is an oversight. The most effective learning moments are being ignored, while traditional training programmes are becoming roadblocks to effective learning.

Microlearning is the solution
It’s time for a different approach. It would be far better for businesses to encourage informal but highly accessible training modules for the way we learn today - bite-sized, 15-minute sessions that can be accessed from anywhere, which focus on individual concepts. Not only does this format better reflect the way that we learn, but it comes with other advantages, discussed below.

The employee is in charge
Conventional training attempts to educate many learners all at once, treating them as though they are all the same. But no two employees are alike. Microlearning empowers the learner to consume the information they need, when they need it. They can take it all in at their own pace, access the information that’s most pertinent and brush up on the skills they feel they’re lacking, all without having to consult someone else or wait for a session to come available.

Fast and easy to create
Technology helps streamline the microlearning creation process. Since the web is a collaborative medium, everyone can gain the ability to create training that meets organisational quality standards. It’s information sharing at its fastest and most efficient.

Available on-demand
In today’s age of remote working and flexi-time, training needs to be available any time, anywhere. Bite-sized training is perfectly suited for “just-in-time” learning, where employees can quickly and easily brush up on the topics they need to know - whether out in the field or behind their desks.

Agile
When sessions are small and information is compact, keeping material current becomes far easier. Unlike with large, cumbersome industrial training systems, when new training needs are identified, sessions can be created quickly, reviewed and disseminated to everyone who might need it — whether it’s an immediate bulletin or just a reference for the future.

Low cost, high impact
The long-term cost of training is drastically reduced with microlearning and training techniques. This new format eliminates the need for finite and expensive resources like instructors, physical training spaces and hours spent in the classroom. Your training programme becomes more of a “living” thing, able to move quickly, adapt to changes and address real problems in the moment they arise so that workers can stay productive.

Great things come in small packages
Whether it’s the value-for-pound investment, level of retention, timeliness for the need of the learner or streamlined management process, microlearning is quickly emerging as the smartest means of giving your team the information they need to do their jobs. Less really is more!