Let us rewind to the 90s. PowerPoint presentations were becoming increasingly mainstream in all aspects of enterprise communication. Companies would adopt PowerPoint for their learning and development programs and before you knew it, PowerPoint slides became the trainers most trusted tool.

Fast forward another 30 years later and it’s amazing how PowerPoint continues to be the mainstream communication medium for training – especially classroom training.

However, with the rise of microlearning – any learning experience that lasts only for a few minutes – all that is set to change. Or is it?

The current challenge facing organizations and learning & development executives is not about understanding the importance of adopting microlearning. It’s more about figuring out how they can repackage their existing learning content, all of which was created keeping a megalearning type of experience, such as classroom training and even traditional eLearning.

With the rise of mobile technology and in the average time spent by an adult user on mobile per day increasing to more than 3 hours in the US alone, it is evident that microlearning via mobile is an incredibly attractive proposition for organizations to improve the skills of their workforce for any and every type of learning objective:
1. Imagine a healthcare distribution organization wanting to increase productivity via sales training for its 2,000-strong sales force across Asia and Africa
2. Think about a globally dispersed workforce for an oil & gas company looking to impart new benchmarks to it’s 5,000 graduate engineers in health & safety training
3. Observe a growing hospitality brand aiming to ramp up it’s hotels business across Europe and North America by creating the gold standard in customer service training for its 10,000-odd hospitality staff

But with so much learning content existing in formats like PowerPoint presentations, videos and PDF documents, why should organizations go through the hassle of digitizing their megalearning content into microlearning content?

Here’s why:

1. Digitizing does not mean re-creating: Digitizing existing learning content should be less about creating new content and more about repackaging existing content. Think of it as the Airbnb-equivalent to renting and home sharing. In other words, if you have a 100-slide presentation for health and safety training, digitizing that presentation into microlearning content can help you re-purpose key messages from your existing presentation rather than having to start from scratch. For example, the section on safety measures in the boiler room can easily translate into a standalone microlearning module or Microskill, making it easier to repackage existing content into an entire range of microskills.

2. Personalizing The Learning Experience: With microlearning through microskills, you empower the learner with options. This is the equivalent of liking and purchasing one or two songs from your favorite musician’s album rather than buying an entire album. If only 20% of your sales force requires planning skills and another 40% requires support in answering objections, it is not only expensive but also ineffective to make all 100% of your sales force attend an entire five day long sales training program. With digitization comes the ability to personalize learning based on the learners’ requirements and only give them what they need (or what they want).

3. Simplification: What is easier – learning to speak Japanese as well as a local can or learning to speak five important sentences in Japanese that can help you order a taxi, get you to the airport or hotel, etc? Digitizing content into microlearning makes learning simpler by breaking down learning objectives into easier tasks that require lesser “perceived” time to learn.

4. Increasing Learning Effectiveness (Retention): What is easier to retain for a dealer sales rep of an automobile company:
a. 50 different car products over a 10-day training program or
b. 50 different car products broken into 25 microskills, available to learn anytime, anywhere? Besides the obvious convenience of learning anytime & anywhere, microlearning content can enable the dealer sales rep to learn about 50 different products over spaced intervals of time, allowing him to retain that content over a longer period of time. Think of retention in learning through spaced intervals as the equivalent of asking someone to binge eat in 30 minutes versus eating the same quantity over spaced intervals over a 12-hour period. By digitizing learning content, you can encourage spacial learning and improve digestion (sorry, retention!)

5. Better Utilization & Application: Digital learning content is likely to be utilized more often given its short time-to-learn content. By remembering the content for a longer period of time, you also make the learner more inclined to apply that learning content to good use on the job. Imagine a large bank looking to boost revenue through investment products. How can the bank encourage its 20,000 strong relationship managers and customer service managers to upsell investment products like life insurance, foreign exchange, mutual funds and alternate investments to clients? By boosting product knowledge for its relationship managers and customer service managers, the bank increases the probability of these learners to have conversations on these products with clients, thereby increasing the probability of selling more products through this channel.

6. More Informed Decision Making: Digital learning comes with embedded analytics which can help you get more information about how your learners experience learning content and what content do they struggle to learn versus content that they understand relatively easily. Such kind of insights help in identifying skills gaps among learners which in turn enable executive to take decisions on what type of content is required on an ongoing basis. Notice how such kind of analytics can make learning more sustainable by constantly improving or iterating on the learning content, based on learner feedback.

7. Because Learners Are Also Consumers: Businesses do not educate customers via PowerPoint slides and classroom sessions. They educate customers via high impact 30 second ads or interactive games on social media which help customers make informed decisions on what products to purchase and which brands to associate themselves with. An organization should also think of its workforce in much the same way as learners expect consumer type experiences for their work related tasks, especially tasks such as learning for which time always has to be “carved out”. Digitizing learning content into microskills enables learners to switch off and experience learning as a consumer experiences branded products, leading to better engagement.

8. Because Learning Is No Longer About Reading, But Experiencing: As technology evolves and the newer workforce increasingly interacts with mobile and tablets, the way in which we learn also changes from reading to experiencing. Imagine a traditional learning concept explained in a 1,000-word paragraph turning into a simple micro interaction based on a tap of a button. Today, microlearning is not only about reducing the learning content, it is equally about experiencing the learning content via taps, swipes, pinches and a whole bunch of other gestures that are not applicable in traditional learning.

9. Turn PowerPoint Into Powerful Points: Digitizing learning content can also improve the learning experience via core gamification and with the inclusion of games and points to reward learners based on their progress and re-use of the learning content. This further improves engagement, retention and overall learning effectiveness.

10. Because Learning Programs Are Evolving Into Learning Campaigns: Similar to how megalearning is about day long programs, microlearning is about two minute campaigns. This inherent nature of microlearning enables organizations to leverage microlearning in a whole new way. Imagine if regulatory changes in the insurance industry means changing your organizations’ product configuration overnight, thereby leaving you with very little time to inform your 15,000-strong sales force about these changes. Here’s where microlearning can be leveraged as a learning campaign in which your workforce can be equipped with the updated product knowledge microskill that can be:a. learned in two-minute experiencesb. completed in as little as 30 minutes andc. available for reference over a 10-day timeline (or longer, depending on the relevance of the content)

Surely this does not mean that existing, non-digitized content or mega learning is not relevant. Most learning experiences will still make use of the traditional forms of learning.

However, with organizations continuously focusing on improving productivity, reducing costs and with learners burning out with no time to learn new skills, digitizing learning content via microlearning becomes a powerful supplement to improve skills in an effortless manner.

1. KPCB 2017 Internet Trends: http://dq756f9pzlyr3.cloudfront.net/file/Internet+Trends+2017+Report.pdf
2. http://joshbersin.com/2017/03/the-disruption-of-digital-learning-ten-things-we-have-learned/
3. http://blog.masteroapp.com/three-different-types-of-gamification-in-learning-peripheral-intermediate-or-core/