Scalability is a huge advantage of eLearning over ILT, or instructor-led training. It’s generally very easy to add more learners to an asynchronous online course. But the ease of scaling eLearning has led to its depersonalization, a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. At the same time, personalized eLearning is essential to enabling each employee to perform at full potential.

Microlearning offers a solution, with the ability to create eLearning that is both scalable and personalized.

Scalable learning helps businesses thrive

As businesses grow and evolve, the skills their employees need also change. “In a world that is more rapidly changing and where our needs are evolving at an accelerating rate, the institutions that are most likely to thrive will be those that provide an opportunity to learn faster together,” John Hagel and John Seely Brown wrote in HBR. That’s scalable learning.

It’s not just using existing resources more efficiently, they wrote; it’s also creating and sharing new knowledge. Rather than (or in addition to) using technological advances to automate tasks and trim the workforce, “scalable learning harnesses technology to augment the capabilities of people,” Hagel and Brown wrote.

Learning can be scaled within an organization—helping colleagues collaborate—as well as on a larger scale, through social learning with other organizations: eLearning Guild conferences are an example of scalable learning among professional peers.

Nuances of scalable learning

Too narrow a take on scalable learning can keep businesses from enjoying the most significant benefits. If an organization’s understanding of scalability begins and ends with offering an eLearning asset to more people or creating fewer assets—in hopes of improving efficiency—and then requiring broader cohorts of employees to complete them, that organization is missing many opportunities!

In this version of scalable eLearning, broad content is combined into a single eLearning course or curriculum. Many employees are therefore exposed to irrelevant or redundant eLearning, because the one-size-fits-all course includes material that they already know and, very likely, material that they do not need for their roles. In addition to its deadly effect on engagement, this is the opposite of efficiency.

Personalized and scalable

The one-size approach rests on an erroneous belief: that personalized eLearning is costly and inefficient to develop and cannot be scaled.

Microlearning enables personalization by giving learners control. Many microlearning platforms provide continuous, on-demand microlearning, for instance. Microlearning is usually accessible on mobile or desktop devices, bringing learning into the workflow. Allowing learners to choose when, where, and how to use eLearning is at the foundation of personalization.

And, according to Dan Belhassen, the president of Neovation, scalability is built into many microlearning solutions, including his company’s OttoLearn Agile Microlearning product. That includes two aspects:

  • The ability to scale content: “You should be able to modify or add content at any time, and have it automatically get distributed to learners that need it. If you can’t do this, then you have a traditional eLearning course and are missing many of the advantages of modern microlearning,” he said.
  • The ability to scale the number of learners: “The second scalability factor is in terms of learners,” Belhassen said, citing the advantages of a “serverless” architecture. “You shouldn’t have to be concerned about going from 10 simultaneous learners to 100,000 learners.”

Adaptive microlearning improves LX

Many eLearning platforms allow learners and their managers to define individual learning goals or learning paths. Adaptive eLearning goes farther, using algorithms to select different content for each learner based on what the learner needs to know—while accounting for what the learner already knows.

“The internet services you use every day are adaptive,” Belhassen said. “Your Nest thermostat learns when you typically wake up and leave the house and optimizes your temperature to match your habits. Netflix figures out what you’d like to watch next. Your microlearning platform should deliver the same experience to your learners—using adaptive algorithms to determine a learner’s knowledge gaps, and provide them with practice opportunities to close those gaps. Deliver just the right personalized training to the right learners.”

In OttoLearn, Belhassen said, the adaptive learning element comes in determining which content each learner sees at each microlearning session. AI-based algorithms consider each learner’s goals and performance to decide which content to deliver, when. That means learners get more content on areas where they are weak or have little prior knowledge and do not “waste” time on content that they already know, he said.

Small, nimble content

The ease of integrating personalization, adaptive content, and scalability makes microlearning a great choice for many L&D needs.

Microlearning emphasizes small, narrowly focused units of content. These can be videos, text, podcasts, or interactive activities. The medium varies, but the purpose—to answer a specific need or question, quickly, when the learner needs it—does not.

In many microlearning platforms, developers can create these small units of content very quickly—and deploy them immediately. The vast amount of content covered in a comprehensive eLearning course is broken down into topics and concepts that can be very granular.

Each learning session is short, but learners are encouraged to engage often, even daily. They can easily search for the specific topics and units that they need. This ensures that they frequently interact with current, relevant content.

Microlearning is a flexible solution

Microlearning is a flexible, adaptable solution that can be scaled, personalized, and targeted in countless ways.

Dive into the world of microlearning at The eLearning Guild’s upcoming Microlearning Design online conference, September 18–19, 2019. Dan Belhassen will present “Leverage Cognitive Science to Create Engaging Microlearning Experiences,” and other speakers will explore the use of video, podcasting, PowerPoint, and even voice assistants in creating and deploying microlearning solutions.