Ideas that matter

Remote Learning: Five Microlearning Best Practices

The early months of 2020 are representative of how the future of workplace learning is changing. Even without the voluntary (or involuntary) necessity of working at home during the unforeseen global pandemic, more people are working remotely than ever before. In recent research, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 25% of wage and salary people work remotely full time and 15% work from home part time. That means over 40% of the workforce is already working remotely and current circumstances will not slow the pace of this change in workforce demographics. In fact, these events are accelerating fundamental changes in how people view the traditional office versus expanding to virtual alternatives.

Most of the discussions around remote work focuses on keeping a healthy culture, how to remain connected, staying focused, and being productive. But there isn’t enough attention towards the need for remote learning to support a remote workforce. People can do their work on their own, but they need to know the framework, rules, goals and operating procedures of that work. Without a strong remote learning strategy, self-directed work leads to mixed results.

Remote learning isn’t a new concept. For example, the traditional LMS has been around forever to support people who can’t be reached by classroom learning. But offering a variety of SCORM courses and a portal for people to download documents isn’t working, especially when working remotely. What’s needed is a transformed approach to learning where the most important information gets delivered to the learner so they can do their jobs properly and not get distracted by so many other things in the real and digital world. This becomes more of a challenge when people are working remotely. Without solving this problem, the distance between people and their offices only gets wider.

Here are some ways to create a remote learning strategy designed to close the distance between the office and its remote people.

Remote Learning Transformation Starts with Learner Engagement

The traditional classroom setting is out of date and is too expensive to facilitate as frequently as in the past. Instead, transition to a variety of eLearning methods that are proven to drive learner engagement. An LMS has never been successful at engaging learners, in fact it causes learners to shy away. Managers can only see when a course is completed, but it doesn’t prove anyone has learned anything.

Learners are forced to take more courses, but studies have proven that most people forget a staggering amount of what they set out to learn. Learner engagement is the act of getting someone to focus on a learning exercise and proving that they actually understand the content that’s presented to them. This requires a different approach in a digital age because learning professionals struggle to capture people’s attention. Without a plan, it’s difficult to capture the learner’s attention in a work setting with all the distractions and even more difficult in a remote work setting because they are distant.

Learner Engagement for Remote Learning

How should remote learning work to drive engagement in ways that the traditional LMS doesn’t? Here are five best practices to support remote learning:

1. Challenge Based Learning Delivers an Engaging Remote Learner Experience

One of the biggest obstacles in traditional learning, especially for remote learners, is that it’s not engaging nor motivating. Learners view traditional learning as a distraction from their day-to-day responsibilities, so they go through the motions and don’t learn from the experience.

Designing and presenting learning content as a challenge drives competition by:

  • Engaging learners by having them respond to realistic scenario-based challenges to demonstrate they can practice their knowledge and to stimulate active thinking.
  • Providing immediate feedback on an answer congratulates and encourages those who answer successfully. It also creates pressure for those who got the challenge incorrect.
  • Showing leaderboards adds social pressure to encourage learners and their teams to stay on top of the leaderboard and for those who are not, motivate them to climb higher.

Scenario-based challenges present the most important content in a format that successfully competes for learner engagement. If learning isn’t delivered with challenge questions, content is set to fail and will not be retained.

2. Microlearning Transforms Content into a Time-Respectful Remote Learning Experience

There is too much content for people to consume and not enough time. It’s tedious for people to sit through long SCORM courses and retain any knowledge. This essentially force-feeds learners too much knowledge at once, making them sort through all the details of a long session to find out what’s most important. At the same time, the internet gives us unprecedented power to distribute information, but this creates a digital junk drawer in which all the information you need to know is now mixed in with information you don’t need to know.

Remote learners don’t need more content, they need the right content. This requires a transformation in how learning content is created and delivered for remote learners. Here are microlearning best practices to transform information into learning content that will have an impact on performance:

  • Curating content and designing it as scenario-based challenges helps subject matter experts prioritize the most important concepts. Instead of packing information into a big SCORM course, content should be changed to fit into a shorter format that is easy to consume.
  • Spacing content allows learners to receive the information in a series rather than trying to digest everything at once. This is scientifically proven to foster knowledge retention.

A well-designed microlearning program takes away any excuse that people have to remain disengaged. This is especially true when it comes to remote learning. Remote learners rely on receiving this information to understand and align with the critical concepts and knowledge necessary to drive organizational objectives.

3. Repetition Uses Brain Science for Remote Learner Knowledge Reinforcement

Delivering content using the spacing effect helps make sure learners aren’t overwhelmed by information overload. Through repetition and knowledge reinforcement, learners are able to overcome the forgetting curve that many learners face today.

Here’s how best practice knowledge reinforcement works:

  • Content is scheduled in spaced learning sequences so that microlearning challenges are delivered in a way that engages the learner. Also, learning is transformed into scenario-based challenges to foster active thinking.
  • Real time explanations after each question is answered provides immediate feedback to learners to help reinforce knowledge whether the question was answered correctly or not.
  • Questions are adaptive to demonstrate learner proficiency (e.g., answering a question twice correctly retires a question, an incorrect answer repeats the question a third time).


4. Coaching Tools Help Managers Analyze and Coach Remote Learners

Keeping managers personally involved in the learning process is important for remote learning. It’s a manager’s responsibility to have an understanding of their team’s knowledge and skills to provide them with key information on where strengths and weaknesses exist.

Too often managers find out that their people have learning gaps after the fact, when they can’t do anything about it. Microlearning programs provide coaching dashboards for managers to:

  • Give visibility into those who are performing and then help them become better which continues to engage learners in a positive learning path.
  • Start having targeted coaching conversations with learners who are not demonstrating proficiency improvement. Visualize immediate team trends to see who is engaged and who isn’t.

Managers use these dashboards to connect with remote people and their teams to coach in real-time. Coaching actions should be taken when managers look at learning activities and performance data to guide people in building the knowledge and skills they need to perform at their best.

5. Proficiency Analytics Measure the Skill Growth of Remote Learners

Traditional learning metrics are not effective at portraying whether the learner is engaged with the materials presented, gained proficiency in the subject of the training, and whether their skills improved and transferred to behavior change.

LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report describes this challenge clearly. It’s findings suggest that organizations use measures like “qualitative feedback from employees,” “number of courses completed online,” and “number of employees who learn consistently online” to determine the success of learning investments. But these measures are tragically flawed because they demonstrate activity, not proficiency gain or learning. This is why the $200 billion corporate learning and development market doesn’t achieve expected learning outcomes and demonstrable return on learning investment.

Traditional training courses require a significant amount of time to complete, taking away from productivity, and disengages learners. Tracking course completion and activity does not provide valuable information and whether people actually learned something, which cannot be correlated to on the job performance.
There’s a better way:

  • To make sure information is grasped and understood for long term-memory, questions need to be presented through repetition. Best-practice microlearning creates a vivid proficiency analysis by demonstrating how someone answered a question initially and how they answered the same question a second or third time.
  • Repetition creates a proficiency metric of initial proficiency compared to the learners later proficiency gains after a microlearning program is complete. This measures the effectiveness of the learning program and also creates a visual of the performance readiness of an organization.
  • Proficiency substantiates the value of a learning program and creates a measure of performance: which learners engaged in the process, who didn’t, on which topics did the team succeed in and what did they struggle with.
  • These measures don’t happen retroactively: reports and analytics demonstrate engagement and proficiency as learners take courses, permitting organizations to take action.
  • Heatmaps demonstrate which cohorts, questions, regions and other breakdowns demonstrated proficiency increase, charting the path for precise future learning investments.

This measure of performance is valuable for the entire organization but is especially helpful in remote learning to understand and act on people’s knowledge gaps, learning opportunities and skills development.

Example of a Remote Learning Program for Remote People: Compliance Training

Learning is important for increasing knowledge about the business, job and skills needed to perform successfully. In the case of compliance training, learner engagement isn’t optional: it’s a requirement. Here are some ways that best practice microlearning is effective in supporting compliance training for all people even those who are remote:

  • Combining scenario-based challenge questions with the spacing and testing effect helps ensure that people are fully engaged in a compliance training exercise.
  • Compliance training benefits from efficient bursts of microlearning because compliance subjects are critical and benefits peoples concentration and contemplation: long SCORM courses never work to support this.
  • Microlearning is less expensive and time consuming than traditional compliance training.
  • Knowledge reinforcement supports doing more than registering that a learner has completed a course, it’s the best method to ensure that the learner who completed the compliance exercise has actually remembered the information.

Compliance training is required for all employee audiences. This approach to training is different from results generated by traditional methods. Now, organizations have certainty that knowledge was gained through the compliance training exercise with proof of the return on investment from people actually learning something in the process.

Remote Learning for the Remote Workforce

The days of managers and their employees sitting together in an office every day are over. Organizations that embrace the new methods of remote learning described here will have a competitive advantage when it comes to overall benefits for their employees. The time for this evolution isn’t something to contemplate in the future, the remote workforce and its demand for the new remote learning is immediate.

If you’re interested in improving engagement of remote people, request a demo to learn more how Qstream’s best-practice microlearning platform increases learner engagement, improves knowledge retention, and provides learning analytics for your remote learning programs.

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