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Microlearning in the Flow of Work

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

We've all heard about the trend of 'learning in the flow of work'. The concept itself isn't radical, "Of course I'd like to learn something fast, on-the job, and with the tools I'm already using."

However, there is a new focus with the rise of LXPs and realization that an LMS is not up to the task. And there have been technical challenges to workflow that are finally being met. As corporate learning tends to lag other major consumer and enterprise technology trends, there has been for some time now a software movement to turn the world into an API.

"...Whole industries are being turned into APIs for others to use. And that is not only through the interface of the company who does it. Uber, in turn, also provides an API for anyone to utilize their service in their own value chain. Calling Ubers from Google Maps, using Ubers for delivery services, having Uber pick up your Tinder date,… all possible through their API."

We can now see the rise of APIs in corporate training with the availability of microlearning through daily tools like Slack. This is a welcome innovation as it takes learning into the apps people use on a daily basis. Imagine an algorithm analyzing a workplace collaboration thread inside Slack or Microsoft Teams and recommending a relevant video.

But is the promise and potential of learning in the flow of work just a short video in the middle of a Slack thread? We think there has to be more. The 'flow of work' has many different definitions depending on the type of job and function. Is it white collar or blue collar? What is the vertical? What is the learning objective -- performance support, training, compliance?

Here are more ideas for taking 'learning in the flow of work' to the next level:

  • Merging learning and the real world - IOT and edge computing represent another technological trend that has learning implications. For example, in addition to a broken machine passing data back to a field service technician it can also trigger the repair manual and support video for how to fix it. This interaction with the real world can happen in any number of increasingly sophisticated ways from QR codes on machines, to geofencing a work site, to physical beacons for indoor location. The smartphone and tablet become a way to interact with the physical environment.

  • Authoring and creating microlearning - Most 'learning in the flow' focuses on the end user and completion of a learning intervention. But what about the creation of content? Training is often created by experts, and what if those experts are in the field? With smartphones and collaborative authoring, the creation and deployment of learning can be increasingly fast and relevant. Using the same example as in the bullet above, an experienced field technician might be the only one who can record the proper fix to the equipment and assign it to everyone so that next time there is an issue anyone can fit it.

  • Moving beyond video - While YouTube-like videos are the common definition of microlearning, resources from PDFs to PowerPoint files are sometimes the best solution - and can be easily served up at the point of need. But in the flow of work new kinds of experiences are being piloted that hold the potential for a seismic change in the end-user learning experience. We're thinking about augmented reality. Ideally AR is another arrow in the quiver for solving learning problems that could sit alongside video, PDF manuals or course snippets. But neither LMS nor LXPs are designed to do this today. At best they can serve media but AR is far out of reach. To return once again to our example above, what if the experienced field technician could create an AR work instruction with step-by-step instructions that overlayed the actual equipment. With Apple smartphones or Microsoft Hololens that future is closer than many expect.

  • Combining microlearning and task completion - In certain circumstances integrating task completion within the learning platform is the best way to tighten the workflow between the job at hand and microlearning. For example, creating a checklist feature that sits alongside training deployment makes sense for safety, compliance, or field services. An engineer could complete a daily audit / inspection and see a violation that needs immediate training and remediation. That could all be combined in a single workflow instead of juggling multiple apps.

Several years ago learning broke free of the classroom. Mobile has helped it break free of the desktop. Today, learning is breaking free of the LMS as the on-the-job user experience takes center stage.

Microlearning and Workflow in an Office Environment

An illustration showing Microlearning examples in an office environment.

Microlearning and Workflow in an Industrial Environment

An illustration showing microlearning examples in a manufacturing environment.


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