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Integrate microlearning and learning in the flow of work for more accessible training resources

April 23, 2021

In corporate training, two approaches are currently very popular: microlearning and learning in the flow of work. Both have the great advantage of minimizing disruption to work processes, and both can be easily integrated into employees’ schedules by offering very short activities. But what makes them different and how can both approaches be leveraged in a comprehensive training strategy?

Associate of The 5 Moments of Need and co-author of Innovative Performance Support, Bob Mosher points out that most training focuses on new skills to be learned or developed but rarely on applications or problem-solving tasks related to the training. However, performance deficits can be linked in large part to a poor transfer of learning into daily work. Thus, designing learning strategies that emphasize post-training is a necessity for companies.

Tools proposed in various learning projects in The 5 moments of need workflow address these issues. Whether it’s a digital tool that provides access to relevant information in 2 clicks and 10 seconds to perform a manufacturing production task or a digital coach in the form of a chatbot that immediately analyzes real-life situations in leadership training, the idea is to provide support to the employees at the moment they need it and directly at their station. These resources can take the form of a very short learning activity but are not limited to that, for example a questionnaire to guide the learner towards a solution to a problem or a poster reminder. Learning in the flow of work is therefore an approach that emphasizes the accessibility of learning activities.

Microlearning, on the other hand, focuses on the format of the activity, specifically its duration. Employees have little time to devote to training: on average, only 24 minutes per week. Scheduling a short activity is a way to encourage its completion through daily tasks. For this activity to be effective, it is necessary to address only one learning objective and to be concise. Some consider that microlearning can consist of breaking down a program or lesson into smaller modules, linked to each other in a more or less personalized and/or gamified pathway, while others believe that microlearning modules should be completely independent of each other. In any case, the content should last only a few minutes and meet a specific training need.

It is easy to see that, while learning in the flow of work can make an effective use of microlearning modules, not all microlearning modules are readily available to employees. Yet it is this availability and speed of access that keeps learners engaged in long-term programs like language learning. The challenge is to ensure that learners in the workplace will attend the course module every week or every day, regardless of their other priorities. A research group from Cornell University suggests to integrate short learning activities directly into a social network news feed (instead of advertisements for example): the fewer clicks, the more the activity will be completed. In the same manner, after an initial training on equipment, some companies use QR codes directly on site as an access to procedure reminders in the form of microlearning activities.

A large part of a training success is the overall strategy used. Creating microlearning modules meets some of the companies’ training needs, but delivering them in an effective manner requires a great deal of thought and creativity. Taking the time to understand how employees work is even more necessary when making productivity-enhancing training and resources available to them.