Boss Lady

Microlearning is the future of all education, not just professional training


In today’s fast-paced digital world, a college education is still the most well-traveled road to success. After all, college graduates make 66% more over a 40-year career than high school graduates. But obtaining a degree requires a huge investment of time and money. It may not be the best option for everyone.

Microlearning, or learning in short bursts, could be the solution. It’s gaining in popularity around the world. Just last year, Smartly—a free, licensed MBA program that can be completed in 6 months— arrived on the scene as a quick but effective way for busy professionals to acquire managerial knowledge and skills.

Yet microlearning hasn’t really caught on with mainstream America yet. Most people still think of a college or graduate degree as the end-all, be-all for career preparation. But is it really? Here’s why and how microlearning could replace diplomas:

Microlearning teaches what’s relevant

If you want to learn how to set up a garden, you’d probably do one or more of the following things:

  • Search Google for articles
  • Look on YouTube for videos
  • Borrow a book from the library

Whatever options you choose, your goal is to acquire the necessary knowledge to complete the task. The entire microlearning movement began as a way to bring people the knowledge they need precisely when they need it. This puts learners in the driver’s seat.

As Bernard Bull, an expert in digital education, says, “In order to create an engaging learning experience, the role of instructor is optional, but the role of learner is essential.”

Microlearning aims to provide the most relevant knowledge and gives students the ability to access that knowledge quickly. This makes it very useful for business training and onboarding, especially in industries that are constantly evolving.

For example, if you graduated with a degree in marketing from an elite university in the 1980s, your studies certainly didn’t cover most of the skills you use today. Neil Patel, a digital marketing expert, writes that to be a successful marketer today you must possess digital skills like content marketing, SEO, and analytics. These digital skills weren’t taught until the early- to mid-2000s and only in the late 2000s and 2010s have become commonplace.

If what you learn in college isn’t relevant 10–20 years later, then the value of your diploma isn’t so certain. Sure, it will help you get your foot in the door with many companies. But your skills and experience are what advance your career. An on-the-go learning model ensures students and workers are constantly absorbing the knowledge they need to stay ahead.

Microlearning fits the modern learner

Be honest. How many times have you spaced out in the classroom? Don’t feel bad. Science has an excuse for you—human attention spans are actually decreasing.

As technology continues to play an ever-increasing role in our lives, attention spans are bottoming out. According to a study by Microsoft, humans have an attention span of eight seconds—worse than a goldfish. No wonder staying awake during a lecture can be difficult.

Given the way universities teach, it can be argued that traditional classes are outdated. In 2017, they simply aren’t as efficient at transferring knowledge as microlearning. This argument is supported by research findings like the following:

Here’s some good news: you’ve probably been using microlearning techniques all your life. From looking at flashcards on the bus to reciting important info in your head before a quiz, your mind is filled with knowledge learned in bite-sized chunks.

Microlearning offers advantages for companies

Companies spend a good deal of money training their employees. Here are the research findings from the 2016 Training Industry Report:

  • Large companies: $14.3 million
  • Midsize companies: $1.4 million
  • Small companies: $376,000

These aren’t small chunks of change. For businesses that pay for MBAs and other degrees, expenses on employee training and development can be much higher than those averages.  Clearly, businesses can benefit from a more cost- and time-effective way to educate their employees.

It’s not just mid-size and big businesses that can benefit. Very small companies (like a few employees) and self-employed individuals may not have the resources and time to fund traditional education. Also, many small companies and self-employed people require certain skills to fulfill a specific business need—which microlearning can give them quickly and affordably.

While online learning and microlearning techniques are gaining momentum, there is still much more opportunity for growth. Microlearning can indeed become the core development method for enterprises of all sizes.

Since microlearning is powered by digital technologies, it’s very scalable and cost-efficient—which also makes learning more affordable. Microlearning is also more in tune with the needs and preferences of the modern workforce. So, it’s worth it for any company to make microlearning a primary way to learn. It will help employees gain applicable skills and knowledge for the actual job, and it will save you resources.

Microlearning won’t cause crippling debt

In the United States, students graduate with an average of $30,100 in student loan debt. The fact is too many families have to borrow to pay for college. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves graduates with a heavy financial burden as soon as they start their careers.

With many private colleges having sticker tags of more than $60,000 per year, it could be time to explore less expensive ways to learn. Microlearning is a strong possibility.

Surprisingly, major educational institutions are some of the biggest proponents of microlearning because they see its potential. For instance, MIT is already leveraging microlearning to increase people’s intelligence.The school has created WaitSuite, which is a tool that integrates ‘microlearning moments’ into interfaces you use. Hopefully, universities will start to blend microlearning into their curriculum to cut down costs.

The biggest appeal to most microlearning programs is that users can pay at the pace they learn. This gives students control over how they spend money on their education. That could equal less debt for students in the long run—and they still will have learned the necessary things.

Microlearning can replace diplomas and certifications

There’s an argument to be made that traditional learning models aren’t suited for the modern workplace. The more technology expands over time and influences our personal and professional lives, the harder it is to ignore the benefits microlearning models could have in the classroom.

But microlearning could also have a huge impact in the workplace. Instead of spending countless dollars and hundreds of hours on degrees like MBAs, investing in hands-on, job-specific training that’s much more affordable and practical could get new hires on the right page faster. Some disciplines, like marketing, are more easily taught (and put into practice) through effective training.

Whatever industry you work in or job you currently hold, effective learning is key to your continued success. As technology continues to change and shape the way we work, new skills spring up and become outdated within a few years. To stay ahead of the competition, you’ll need to adopt a constant learning model.

About Victoria Feder

Victoria Feder is CEO of The Online Marketing Institute (OMI), a leading educator for digital marketing. OMI's mission is to help professionals and companies bridge the digital marketing knowledge gap so they can better execute, drive ROI and build competitive advantage. Victoria has over twenty years of marketing and operational experience. She was a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group and held senior roles in a number of technology, education and marketing startups.

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