Online learning platforms provide businesses with tools to help employees master an endless number of skills. Everything from diversity and sexual harassment awareness to customer relationship management (CRM) can be taught using one of these tools. Vendors have taken different approaches to building this software, including unique items such as live learning, gamification, and even survey tools to improve the education process.
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We recently spoke with Andrea Curry, Vice President of Product Management at online learning company Axonify, about the different types of tools available and how companies can make the best use of them. In our discussion, we talked about everything from learning content creation and microlearning to using online learning to help grow revenue.
PCMag (PCM): When should large companies and institutions outsource their online learning to third-party specialists? It seems like the online learning process could be unwieldy with too many learners involved.
Andrea Curry (AC): Well, the good news is, there is a lot of development in the way of learning technology that is helping solve this challenge. Today, employees continuously need to expand their knowledge and skills and, in order to help workers meet these demands, organizations are seeking a more modern approach to learning. Learners need information anytime, anywhere, and ideally in bite-size chunks. Online learning platforms help large organizations create a consistency in culture, especially for those that need to communicate across countries and offices and also tie learning metrics to measurable changes in employee behavior.
Content is also key. To help maximize learning efforts, it is also critical that organizations can support and deliver a wide library of content to employees. As organizations become more agile, employees tend to churn through information. For instance, if 50 percent of the workforce is an expert in an organization's training content, that is a clear sign that content is getting stale and needs to be revamped. One of the challenges with traditional learning systems is that companies are behind the eight ball from the get-go. By the time content is in production, the business problem might be solved.
PCM: How important has live learning become for organizations? Many platforms still don't offer the functionality. Is that a mistake?
AC: We believe that wrapping other forms of learning around both live online and classroom training can often help make the learning experience more efficient and effective in the long term. At Axonify, we support the scheduling and management of live video conference events as well as integration with video conferencing systems. These capabilities allow us to add value to live events by pushing out pre-work, communicating existing attendee knowledge to instructors, and automatically reinforcing key learning points from the sessions.
Building a video conferencing system hosted inside Axonify has not been a priority since there are a vast number of affordable platforms available on the market that focus solely on that capability. Instead, our focus has been on helping customers design and implement adaptive learning experiences that drive business results, and measuring those results.
PCM: What is microlearning and why has it become such an important phrase in e-learning?
AC: Microlearning, done right, is an approach to workplace training that drives business results by adapting learning to the needs of each individual employee. With microlearning, organizations use short, focused training content to provide a personalized and engaging learning experience that fits into employees' daily workflow, aligns with the science of how people really learn, and ultimately ingrains the knowledge and behaviors they need to succeed. What makes Axonify's approach to microlearning different is that we start with our customer's end business goals in mind. All content delivered through our microlearning platform is designed to drive the right knowledge and behaviors to achieve those business objectives.
Why has microlearning become such an important phrase in eLearning? Microlearning is a hot topic in the corporate learning and performance space—and the buzz isn't slowing down. Learning and business leaders alike are working quickly to understand the concept, and how it can be applied purposefully to support employees and their businesses. Before an organization takes the leap into microlearning, it's important to understand the fundamentals. To be successful, microlearning must be applied in the right way—from the beginning—to make a meaningful impact on business outcomes.
PCM: When it comes to content creation, how important are the quality of the visuals/graphics? We've all taken courses with awful actors in staged scenes shot on grainy film; we learned fine. Do we really need expert cinematography and motion graphics?
AC: Actually, getting information out quick is more important than the quality of visuals/graphics. While online learning in general is getting stronger and stronger, we see the quality of video trending down. This is because organizations' leaders are shooting videos on their phones in order to communicate with employees as quickly as possible. The timing element has become more important than the production quality of the video, for example, sound, lighting. That being said, for corporate-wide strategic projects, there is quite a bit of investment in high-quality, professionally produced video projects that allow for longer production.
Regarding the length of videos, the trend is for shorter learning and development videos based on both workplace demands and employees' preferences as brain science shows that individuals can only absorb four to five pieces of information into short-term memory at any given time.
PCM: Let's disregard compliance and HR-related online learning; how does an online learning platform help businesses grow revenue and empower workers?
AC: Over and over we find that the majority of employees really do want to do a good job. Giving workers critical learning content—for example, safety best practices, customer service protocol—anytime, anywhere that can help them build their skill set is critical for organizational productivity and efficiency. When employees don't have the right knowledge to take the right actions, they can't align with company goals, become top performers, or make knowledge-based decisions. Unfortunately, this can have poor results. Think customer service issues, lost sales revenue, increased safety incidents, and a host of other consequences that end up costing organizations millions (even billions) of dollars. The list goes on and on. In the end, microlearning can hone in on what organizations are trying to achieve big-picture and positively impact employee behaviors in order to reach those business results.