Ideas that matter

Microlearning Myth Two: No Push Required

The consequences of digital acceleration are that it’s never been so easy to proliferate ideas and learning content: the good, the bad, the inconsequential, meaningful, meaningless, and so on. This already overflowing “digital learning junk drawer” happens when fragments of knowledge build up in a learning system. The unintended result is in a field of intellectual debris of learning concepts mixed together regardless of relevance. As this fills with more training and development content, the learner experience is compromised and can turn people off.

Best practice microlearning pushes critical business knowledge to people to punctuate learning — and encourages participation through techniques like game mechanics and socialization — to help ensure people don’t forget the messages you need them to know and can’t afford them to forget. Short precision microlearning challenges can be as much about sending a message as they are about learning.

“Don’t lose your most important messages in the digital junk drawer; use microlearning messaging for business impact.”

Push the Message You Can’t Afford Learners to Forget

Organizations use microlearning to push critical business messages to employees that they need learners to understand. The challenging learner experience created by the digital learning junk drawer is exacerbated by the fact that people increasingly do business in a digital, short-attention-span world where people do not routinely seek out knowledge. 

Push the Message with Game Mechanics

Gamification should make things more competitive and, ideally, provide a more fun user experience. But gamification isn’t just about games – it’s about behavior. 

Game mechanics are scientifically proven to increase the impact of learning but are also important to gain learners’ attention in the first place. However, there is a balance to be struck between engaging game mechanics and gimmicky game features for professionals. If gamification is too juvenile, it could lose learner attention if it distracts from the importance of the content or devalues the significance of the push learning program itself.

In learning and sales enablement, the concepts that organizations need to stick may not always be “fun” (although companies using microlearning do report their learners enjoyed and preferred the experience of traditional learning methods). Using leaderboards, for example, adds social pressure: Positive for those who seek to compete, reinforcing for those inspired by reputational trepidation.

And here’s an example of simple game mechanics. People will react to game mechanics differently but in general, some level of how people’s progress compares to others will motivate and potentially even make the challenge fun for some participants. As noted here, one user of microlearning challenges surveying their audience after the session found that the ability to compete made the process more appealing when it took the form of a competition.

“Without a persuasive mobile push of key information, every learning content and message risks being lost.”

Reinforcement via Game Mechanics

Equally important, associated microlearning “heat maps” show current proficiency and other “in-the-moment” feedback to illustrate who’s taking the learning opportunity seriously, and by doing so fosters competition and interaction to further engage learners.

In-the-Moment Mobile Digital Expectations

People may not respond to a microlearning challenge on a mobile device (or not respond every time), but the content and delivery of it should be designed to meet people’s in-the-moment digital expectations. 

This is especially true for mobile or remote workforces such as sales or service teams, but all audiences have the potential to be mobile audiences. The alerts that deliver a microlearning message should be announced in multi-channel alerts, not just email but also pushed as mobile alerts for participation and active engagement.

Purposeful Messaging and Respectful Accountability

In order for microlearning to be well-received, it has to deliver value to its learners. The size, precision and focus of the content should be clear in its value to the audience. To aid organizational transformation, a microlearning challenge should proclaim its obvious value to the audience: no one should ever ask “what’s in it for me?” I’d argue that if the content shared doesn’t pass this litmus test of self-proclaiming its critical value — it’s reason for interrupting the day — it’s not the right content.

Some people will ignore these microlearning pushes. But, if the format is simple, clear and precise enough for quick and easy interaction, nobody has an excuse to remain disengaged.

By transforming important business information into the framework of a precision microlearning challenge — a simple, clear, concise format and challenge that removes the excuse not to participate — no one has an excuse to disengage or lightly engage.

Respectful accountability means that it will be clear — probably clearer than ever before — when a manager or employee isn’t taking training and development seriously. By taking away the excuses, it provides organizations a voice intended to cut through the buzz and insist on being heard by its audience.

Limits of Socially Collaborated Content

The premise of internet freedom is a flawed one. Training content that’s crowd-sourced and self-curated is good but fallible. That’s why it’s critical for organizations to be the ones pushing content versus permitting someone else to do it. In a short-attention-span world, people don’t routinely seek knowledge of their own volition. They don’t rummage through different digital junk drawers: One document here, one webcast there, a video posted on a portal, a report stored in CRM. Any of it might be valuable, but it’s just getting buried deeper each time something is added to the digital junk drawer.

The notion of the limitless Internet where knowledge is free is being challenged both inside and outside of organizations. We may not notice it, but the content we consume is increasingly curated – whether actively by its owners or through observation of online behavior.

Push Learning is Considerate of the Most Critical Business Needs

Running microlearning as a push program is a thoughtful process that results in a learning workflow that creates value. It should ask these questions:

  • Are people getting the message that is the most critical to what’s needed for business impact right now?
    • If as a business we can’t afford for learners not to get it, how can we intervene — with both managers and employees — to achieve necessary business impact?

Part of creating content and the push that makes it work is setting up a program for these communications. This is one example of a customer laying out five key topics spaced regularly throughout the year for maximum impact. The time frame can be longer or shorter, but for measurable impact — and to avoid learner fatigue — having a thoughtful and programmatic approach to “push” is necessary.

Step by Step Microlearning Plan

“Microlearning can be as much about sending a message that sticks as it is about learning.”

Getting Started on a Push Microlearning Program

With all that in mind, programming for push microlearning should jive with other modalities and your annual training calendar to reinforce the most business-critical concepts that you need your workforce to know now. Here are a few tips for getting started:

  1. Set learning objectives and linked to desired business outcomes
  2. Map out training program/learning paths for the year
  3. Identify major events (onboarding, product launch, sales meeting, new technology implementation, process change, etc)
  4. Decide to use microlearning to diagnose knowledge gaps as a pre- or post-assessment or as a standalone reinforcement program
  5. Incorporate microlearning into existing learning processes and metric sets
  6. Launch, measure and adjust learning programs based on microlearning metrics

* * *

With so many things competing for people’s attention in today’s digital world, the best way to help employees cut through the clutter and retain critical business knowledge is through pushed microlearning training content. Rather than expecting employees to independently access training information, pushing information to them conveniently delivers the information they need to know in the flow of their work. Through these consistent, relevant, 2-3 minute microlearning sessions, employee knowledge retention is improved, which positively impacts performance.

If you’d like to continue demystifying the myths of microlearning,  download our webcast. To learn more about how Qstream’s mobile microlearning platform can help L&D and sales leaders improve their employees’ performance, contact us.

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