Most learners spend little time on training over the course of a year; why waste it requiring them to cover material they already know? Moving from annual compliance training courses to a “continuous microlearning”’ approach that enables learners to test out of redundant sections can boost engagement because it respects learners’ time, according to Dan Belhassen of Neovation.

Training magazine’s 2017 training industry report found that the average employee spends less than an hour a week on training. That time should be allocated wisely. “Learners want to be super-efficient with their time,” Belhassen said, describing learner surveys where people admit to “clicking their way through the course as quickly as possible,” and even to paying their children to click through mandatory—but also tedious and unnecessary—compliance training for them.

There’s a better way. He calls it continuous microlearning, and it rests on three pillars:

  • It’s adaptive: Learners can establish their baseline of knowledge and avoid “training” on what they already know.
  • It’s microlearning: Content is broken into very small blocks.
  • It’s subscription-based: Content is delivered daily or at predictable intervals.

“They don’t need to do annual compliance training anymore. They do it once—and then they continue to demonstrate their knowledge, that they have the actual right amount of retention from the organization’s perspective,” Belhassen said.

The microlearning approach facilitates adaptive training: Once a learner has demonstrated competence or retention in a topic area, those units are no longer delivered to him or her. Since units are small and focused, each learner gets a targeted selection of relevant content.

The combination results in “crazy high” engagement, Belhassen said. His research with learners tested the likelihood of getting people to complete training if it was a half hour, 20 minutes, or five minutes in length. Learners would schedule the training, but repeatedly put it off. “We found that two minutes was the absolute sweet spot, that people would almost always do it right away when they were prompted,” he said. “And 40 percent of people would then do another one—right after that. So you’d get four minutes of training from a lot of people when they would be less likely to do five minutes—because they felt like they had a bit more control over their time.”

Learners in non-office environments can be offered a training cadence that works with their environments and schedules; the training increments might be a bit longer and occur once or twice a week, for example.

Content changes; continuous training doesn’t

Organizations can teach new material, reinforce earlier learning, or review regulations. After the continuous microlearning model is ingrained in employees’ workday routines, the content  can be updated or expanded easily.

“Once you’ve got them into a cadence, it’s much easier to deliver more things in the future,” Belhassen said. “We never want a learner that’s participating in natural microlearning to feel like they need to do something different. The ideal scenario is they do their two minutes at some point during the day, and the content of that changes. But once we can train them to do two minutes a day, it’s a huge amount of training time over the course of a year.”

The microlearning approach also makes it really easy for designers to add and update content. “In our case, it’s just adding content to a knowledge tree and then that automatically goes down to the learner based on their role,” Belhassen said. “There might be different areas of focus depending on the learner’s role.” But once a learner is enrolled, the delivery mechanism remains constant.

It’s an approach that offers flexibility and significant cost savings to L&D teams. “The nice thing about building knowledge as a tree or a map is that you don’t have to build the complete module at a time,” Belhassen said. “You could actually build out micro content in different areas of the map that is really strategic, based on the weaknesses that you’ve uncovered, and then fill that out over time—but you could be working across 20 different topic areas in the time that it would normally take to create one full module.” It’s also easy to retire outdated content—for example when regulations or equipment change—by pulling out selected microlearning blocks.

Belhassen pointed out that the continuous microlearning approach is easy to implement, even for small or resource-challenged L&D teams. By moving the focus from graphics-laden, interactive eLearning courses to simple, small pieces of microlearning content, instructional designers can “focus less on the graphic design part of it; focus more on the instructional design part of it,” he said. This makes it possible to “develop a relationship with your learners which is based on them really feeling that that their time is being respected.”

To learn more about improving compliance training—and all eLearning—from Belhassen and other eLearning leaders, download Creating Compliance Training Learners Will Love, a free white paper from The eLearning Guild.