by James Zandstra, J.D.
Two of the hottest learning topics over the past year have been microlearning and the need to upskill our workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that people need to adapt to new realities in the workplace and the challenges that come with them. Upskilling will be essential if people are to adjust to the post-pandemic world and microlearning may be the best way to get there.
Upskilling refers to the process of people learning new skills to perform a job effectively. Upskilling is not to be confused with reskilling. While reskilling refers to training an employee for a new type of role within an organization, upskilling is teaching employees new skills that will improve their performance without changing their role or career path.
Because the world is constantly changing, most people will have to upskill in some way at some point. Things like artificial intelligence and automation have significantly altered the workforce and most organizations have coped by upskilling at a very slow pace.
However, as the pandemic hit, the need for a rapid large–scale upskilling effort emerged. In a short period of time, almost all parts of working life were impacted. New skills are now needed to perform the same tasks before the pandemic hit and anyone who has had to make the switch to working remotely knows this all too well. Things like setting up meetings, managing vendors, and working on projects are very different in a remote work environment. New skills must be taught and the need for quality digital learning tools has never been higher.
Learning and Development organizations have started to discover a better way to teach people digitally. Rather than day-long seminars or lengthy eLearning modules, learning leaders have begun investing in shorter learning bursts called microlearning.
Microlearning can be characterized as short, easily digestible learning material that can be accessed at any time. It comes in a variety of formats, including animations, interactive PDFs, short eLearning modules, and even podcasts. Microlearning is relatively inexpensive, mobile-friendly, and has been seen to dramatically increase retention and engagement rates. For example, a recent study from Dresden University noted that microlearning offers a 22% increase in retention over traditional styles of learning. In an age of mobile devices and declining attention spans, microlearning is a powerful tool for upskilling an organization’s workforce.
Upskill with Microlearning
Upskilling people will be a critical part of 2021 and microlearning offers some of the best ways to do so effectively and efficiently. Here are three reasons why microlearning is such a powerful tool for upskilling.
As a large portion of the workforce has and continues to work from home, short bite-sized learning assets provide the best way to keep learners engaged and, ultimately, to upskill them effectively. Employees can learn when they are ready, at their own pace, and wherever they want. These shorter assets also match the ways in which people engage digital content. More and more, the workforce is getting used to easily accessing the internet through their phones and the content that they consume is short. Microlearning meets these new expectations and provides a variety of different short formats, keeping the learner engaged.
- Measurement and Adjustment
Microlearning also offers the ability to start quickly, measure accurately, and adjust easily, all of which are critical to upskill people properly. Microlearning assets provide feedback in real-time, around very specific topics. Rather than trying to measure a learner’s understanding of a specific subject within a larger learning program, which touches on dozens of topics, organizations can look at a specific microlearning element and determine how well it is teaching their people. If it is not working, changes can be made quickly and easily. This allows organizations to continue to refine and perfect upskilling initiatives.
Because microlearning assets are digital and short, they are much easier and much more inexpensive to create/adjust/update as needed. In fact, according to Dr. Jimenez, in his book 3-Minute eLearning, microlearning can reduce development costs by 50% and increase development speed by 300%. This is primarily because microlearning is inherently modular. Small portions of a larger subject can be modified without having to change the entire course. The ease and relatively low cost associated with microlearning make it a no-brainer tool to use when it comes to upskilling employees.
Upskilling is and will continue to be, critical as people adapt to the new world in which we live. The workplace is different and the ways organizations upskill people will likely need to be different too. Microlearning offers a very powerful way to upskill people. It drives learner engagement, allows for easy measurement and modification, and is inexpensive.