EHS Today Webinar Highlights the Power of “Microlearning”

A new EHS Today webinar that is available for free on-demand now, explores how “behavior based safety” training has failed to keep up with the modernization of the workplace and workers, but a method called “microlearning” could help provide a solution.

Microlearning is a relatively new concept that can be used to support today’s work environment. EHS Today notes that since 2012, microlearning has been on the scene, but uptake in businesses has been slow.

Speakers Terry L. Mathis, Founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, and Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify Inc., discuss the concept of microlearning in the realm of behavior based safety and present real-life examples of microlearning in action.


What is microlearning?


Leaman defines microlearning as “an approach to training or learning that delivers the content an employee needs to know in very short, focused bites.”

Both Leaman and Mathis explain that microlearning avoids the “fire hose” problem of presenting mass amounts of safety information all at once (in ways like daylong seminars) which makes that information difficult to retain and utilize once in the workplace. Leaman asserts that microlearning is the opposite of that method.

“Microlearning is literally woven into the daily workflow of the individual,” Leaman says. “Because it’s short and focused, it can be mapped to how a human being truly learns and truly retains that knowledge so that they can turn it into action in the moment of need.”

A trio of key factors have led to the rise of microlearning in the workplace: characteristics of the modern employee, increasing knowledge demands on employees, and advancements in science and technology.

Leaman and Mathis claim that today’s employees are overwhelmed and distracted from workflow by the prevalence of cell phones and internal and external messaging that they are expected to keep pace with. This “inundation,” as Leaman sees it, has led to increased knowledge demands on the employees, who must make decisions faster and more precisely than ever before. Further, advancements in brain science and technology that reveal how fast the brain learns for the long term have made traditional methods obsolete.

Leaman explains: “A human being is really good at retaining four to five new pieces of information in one session, once the info exceeds that, you start to lose that employee in terms of any kind of retention.” Mathis, who once worked as Coca Cola’s safety head echos that statement, saying that those at the top always need to recognize the limitations of training in order to be successful.


Microlearning in Action


Leaman and Mathis provide in the webinar slides (available here) several industry-specific examples of microlearning in action. All microlearning uses the following order of operations:

  • Identify key learning points.
  • Use primarily a question-based format to deliver continuous learning.
  • Reinforce learning points over time.

Leaman uses ladder safety as a simple example. Three-points of contact and correct ladder angle would be the key learning points. Then, after providing the information, the safety team would ask questions that require the employee to “reply and retrieve that information from their own brain.” After that, employees are asked the same or similar questions, spaced out over time, one to three additional times, with coaching to correct behavior. The repetition, Leaman claims, is what distinguishes microlearning from “one and done” training.

Axonify, Leaman’s company, provides tools, behavior data tracking, and training that uses microlearning. Leaman notes that Wal-Mart instituted microlearning in 2012 and achieved a 54 percent reduction in OSHA-recordable incidents in the eight pilot facilities, a 91 percent voluntary participation rate, and a 15 percent increase in quantifiable knowledge growth across all safety topics.

EHS Today is a news site that also provides frequent free webinars for the safety community. Register through their site here.


Image Credit: The e-Learning Coach


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