Top Trends in Learning & Development: Micro- & E-Learning Strategy

by Susan Katz, on Nov 18, 2021 7:15:00 AM

For about the last two decades, more and more corporations have continuously adopted online learning tools in support of their talent development strategies. Online learning not only offers employees increased access to learning materials, but also a cost-effective solution for companies with a positive ROI. Statistics provided by the eLearning Company show an average of 26% of more revenue per employee within companies utilizing e-learning platforms. A specific example from eLearning Company shows that IBM saved close to $200M as a direct result of switching to eLearning. The corporate adoption rate of online training tools is exponentially increasing, and as a result, so is the volume of success stories that follow. Corporations are poised to be the biggest drivers in e-learning market expansion, which is expected to grow at annual rate of 15% and have a $50 billion valuation by 2026.

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The outbreak of COVID-19 only ignited further dependency on technology-based learning due to the new working-from-home standards and the associated implications. With more employees scattered geographically and connecting with each other virtually, the presence of distributed teams has increased, and online based learning is imperative to support team-wide and individual training becoming one of the top trends in learning and development.

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How are E-learning Tools Applied in Businesses?

Of all the methods surfacing in current trends in learning and development, specifically virtual learning application, the deployment of blended learning programs has been of the most impactful, which has continuously grabbed the attention of businesses and corporations across various industries. Blended learning programs combine online modules with in-person or “classroom” trainings to effectively facilitate the long-term retention of information by employees.

Examples can include pre-requisite online modules for an instructor-led training, or post-training online assessments for verifying employee understanding. The delivery of these programs is supported through learning management system (LMS), video management platform, eLearning software, learning experience platform (LXPs), or program delivery platform (PDPs). These platforms allow employees to quickly curate and distribute training materials through video recordings, online widgets, and other content-creation capabilities offered by the software. Additionally, these systems ensure content is easily searchable and accessible to all employees.

With the COVID-19 pandemic putting a halt to any in-person training sessions, businesses were forced to shift their content creation efforts to developing adequate e-learning training materials to remain competitive. As part of this shift, the creation of user-generated content has become a standard procedure for many corporations. As a result, employers are more likely to source feedback and content ideas directly from their employees.

Taking into consideration the material employees need to optimally perform their job, even if the content is specifically granular, achieves greater engagement and motivation from the learner. Delivering granular learning also allows for shorter modules, which reduces the time-commitment originally needed for longer sessions. Modules that pose more of a commitment during the workday tend to steer employees away from seeking out and utilizing e-learning content.

Companies have become more aware of the significant benefits and productivity that short and ingestible learning modules drive and is commonly known as the basis of micro-learning. While micro-learning is not only commonly seen in blended learning programs, but also poses as one of the major business trends in learning and development in 2021.

How Does Micro-Learning Improve Knowledge Retention and Improve Employee Efficiency?

Micro-learning delivers the bare minimum of information required to teach or refresh skills needed to complete a specified task. The content provided is not only short and to the point, but also easier for employees to remember and recall for future use. A study conducted by Germany’s Dresden University of Technology proved the effectiveness of micro-learning by comparing the performance of participants on an assessment. Some participants were presented learning-material in a series of short-excerpts that each ended with corresponding questions, while the other participants were given the same information but in bulk with the same corresponding questions all given at the end. Once completed, all participants were required to take the same final assessment that covered all the information. The results showed that participants who were taught the material through micro-learning not only took 28% less time to complete the assessment, but also performed 22.2% better.

While utilizing micro-learning as a teaching vehicle is clearly highly effective, applying its use for long-term information reinforcement as well can unlock its full potential impact. Providing mini-modules and assessments over time that aim to refresh employees on critical topics can further improve knowledge retention and job efficiency. However, the agile nature of micro-learning can expand beyond workflow assistance, and be strategically utilized for other reasons, such as achieving employee alignment to the business’ vision, facilitating change management, or enforcing updated or urgent policies.

Why is the Inclusion of Online and Micro-learning in Your Talent Development Strategy So Important Right Now?

Implementing an effective e-learning program to deliver strategic learning and development initiatives is crucial, especially considering the shifts in demographics of the current workforce. A report on Statista depicted the employment break-down by generation and as of 2020, Millennials currently make up 35% of the workforce and Generation Z accounts for another 24%. How can this be interpreted? Well, for starters the learning behaviors of these two generations are different than those of previous generations, Generation X and Baby Boomers. This difference alone is enough to warrant shifts in L&D strategy in order to continuously provide adequate support.

The Millennial and Generation-Z workforce is filled with employees that have become accustomed to the fast intake of short information over their lifetime. Growing up in an era of immense accessibility to technology and the internet, has allowed these generations access to infinite excerpts of information that are constantly consumed within seconds through simple google searches, social media platforms, video games, and so on. To avoid losing the focus of your employees through lengthy e-learning modules, content must be provided to the workforce in a way that matches their speed.

Even though most companies have adopted some sort of learning management software, many companies have yet to develop an effective and adequate e-learning content delivery strategy. Further understanding into the trends in learning and development throughout the workforce can be discerned from the results found in the following polls and studies conducted by the Statista Research Department and Gallop. Based on the 2021 Workplace Learning and Development report published by Statista, 80% of participants stated they only take time to learn when needed, 71% of respondents expected access to online learning platforms for skill enhancement at own pace, and 70% of respondents expected distinct learning paths for each employee to up-skill/reskill and chart career progression. In this same report, both Millennial and Gen-Z employees expressed high value in learning through work, specifically 61% and 76% of participants, respectfully, noted that they see learning as key to success in their career. Based on another poll conducted by Gallop, 58% of employees surveyed said if the content in company’s online learning tools was broken up into multiple, shorter lessons, they would be more likely to use it.

With that said, it’s clear that today’s workforce values learning content that is customized to meet their specific needs, provides an adequate coverage of topics, and is effectively delivered in smaller doses. There's no doubt that digestible and effective learning and development programs are critical for employee retention. Aligning your company’s L&D e-learning initiatives with the wants and needs of the workforce is imperative and is key to providing a positive employee experience, to retaining employees, and to improving workforce efficiency.

Read “How to Do Strategic Learning and Development” to about the latest trends in learning and development and Strategic L&D insights.

Topics:The Human Digital ExperiencePeople and Process TransformationLearning and Development


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