New technologies or approaches often get labelled as disruptors to an existing way of working or doing things. A big issue in most cases is not adopting the technology, but breaking the established habit.

The same is true in the learning and development industry and for Chief Learning Officers, HR and Business Leaders of organizations who are continuously on the lookout for improving learning outcomes for their workforce.

The recent wave of interest in microlearning is causing organizations and leaders to take notice of this new approach to learn and how progress in technologies such as AI and mobile can enable their organizations to make learning even more effective.

But does adopting microlearning mean doing away with the established learning curriculum that you have painstakingly but in place?

It shouldn’t!

Rather, a good way to consider where to use microlearning can be similar to how you would think of adopting any new technology or business venture for that matter.

While we have written previously about the benefits of microlearning and how it differs from traditional learning, there is no denying that organizations can leverage microlearning in a variety of ways, depending on two things:

1.      The criticality of the learning outcomes &

2.      The established learning curriculum

A large financial services firm with 8,000 front line sales people across different geographies is looking to improve the product knowledge of their sales team to sell more. Clearly, this is a business-critical objective where the ability to better understand the different products can help the salesperson better sell and cross sell financial products to customers.

However, depending on whether there is an established learning curriculum in place, the approach to leveraging microlearning can change.

Case 1: In the case where the organization is already using classroom based training and eLearning for upskilling the sales team, microlearning can be better put to use to:

1.      Improve classroom engagement & reduce training duration as a pre-cursor to the training programs

2.      Act as a retention post the classroom training program and help learners retain what they learn via spaced learning every 10, 20, 30 and 60 days for instance

Case 2: If this is a new business objective with no existing learning curriculum in place, the approach could be remarkably different. For example, rather than putting an extensive classroom training initiative in place, the organization can save time and roll out a gamified microlearning experience on mobile and / or tablet to its salesforce. Through gradual introduction to new content, such as new products, updated content on earlier products, etc. the learning & development team can gauge engagement and learner retention for the entire sales force.  

As a follow up, the L&D team can identify ‘fast learners’ and ‘engaged learners’ who are

1.      spending more time learning,

2.      learning the content faster and

3.      possibly also performing well on the job.

A combination of these three types of learners can then go through a more in-depth class room training program that can equip them to train and upskill the remaining sales teams across regions.

This flipped classroom approach can benefit the organization by starting fast, reducing time to learn and further investing in their top sales talent who can further evangelize the company’s products to the remaining sales teams.

As you can see, in both cases the financial services organization was able to adopt and make use of microlearning while still keeping it’s existing learning curriculum and assets intact.

While both cases may converge at some point in the long run, what’s important to realize is that they both start with a different approach and are based on understanding two very simple questions:

1.      What is the criticality of the business requirement and learning outcome

2.      Is there an established learning curriculum already in place or not