If you are running an education or training program, you’ve probably come across the terms microlearning or micro-credentials. You have probably also heard a lot about the Digital Age and how associations need to evolve with the ever-changing times to remain relevant to their members and prospective members. So what does microlearning have to do with the Digital Age? Well, it could be the key to staying relevant and evolving your association’s value proposition!
Before we get into the thick of it, here is a quick definition of micro-credentials (paraphrased from our client, The Institute of Credentialing Excellence): Often viewed as a mini-certification, which serves as proof that a learner has mastered a specific skill or area of study. Micro-credentials are smaller than full certification programs, therefore require less ongoing commitment of time and investment on the part of the learner. Often micro-credentials are represented by digital badges, which may be awarded upon completion – additionally, micro-credentials are typically seen as stackable, to attain a broader competency or sets of skills.
So how can you use micro-credentials as ammunition to reshape your association’s value proposition in the Digital Age?
Subscribe & Filter
We have moved from an economy of ownership to a sharing economy and a subscription economy. This is being realized in both our personal and professional world. A 2018 survey, Thinking Inside the Subscription Box: New Research on e-Commerce Consumers, provided a glimpse into the current state of the subscription economy. Some stats included 15% of online shoppers having subscribed to an e-commerce service over the past year, with 46% having subscribed to an online streaming-media service such as Netflix.
And what about sharing? Some popular examples of this include Airbnb, Uber, WeWork, Rent the Runway, and Lending Club. We control how much or how little of the service we want to utilize and when it comes to subscriptions, decide if we want to continue subscribing or unsubscribe as we please.
Micro-credentials present professionals seeking formal learning with very similar flexibilities. Instead of buying into a long one or two-year certification program, learners can choose from a pool of available micro-credentials, which may only take a few classes to attain. Then, if that micro-credential’s area of study does not meet the needs of the learner, they have the ability to filter through other micro-credential options or ‘unsubscribe’ by not pursuing further micro-credentials with that organization and/or not pursuing micro-credentials in that area of study. No longer are learners constrained with the burden of ownership that may come with a committed certification program, which requires recertification or maintenance of certification on an ongoing basis.
We each maintain an online presence (or multiple online presences). Daily, weekly, and monthly, we meticulously curate what we share via our online presence and carefully promote or showcase our accomplishments. Our online presence is a tool which we can use to establish personal and professional connections, seek out new opportunities, maintain career mobility, and climb to new professional heights.
Micro-credentialing aligns well with our need to continually maintain our professional online presence. For example, as we mentioned earlier in this post, digital badges are often used to represent the completion of a micro-credential. These can be easily showcased on a platform like LinkedIn as a visual representation of ongoing achievement and lifelong learning.
We hear the word over and over again, and it shouldn’t be ignored. Organizations are starting to look at their eLearning programs as a whole and have been slowly starting to replace their standard training programs with the more bite-sized content that millennials typically prefer.
In turn, this helps attract a younger demographic that is continuing to grow into leadership roles and also look for their educational content in other places aside from traditional four-year colleges and universities. Microlearning can also serve as a way and as a place for this younger audience to not only continue their learning but a way they can quickly grow as they start their careers.
I Understand Why, But How?
You see the benefit of microlearning and micro-credentials. But you need some ideas to start implementing programs? Here are a few ideas to get your started:
- Reinforce or supplement formal training. According to a 2017 ATD Report, 81% of adopters cited this as the most common application. This could include delivering short pieces of content to learners before a training program or conference to build excitement and grow their knowledge base before the event, as well as follow up afterwards, to ensure they don’t immediately forget everything that they’ve learned!
- Another application of microlearning is what is referred to as ‘just-in-time content’. This is easily digestible content that a learner can use to brush up on a skill before completing a task. Examples of this include a software developer implementing new code, a lawyer taking on a case with an uncommon argument, or a nurse performing a procedure at the hospital.
- Micro-webinars. While 60-minute webinars continue to be the most popular length of webinar (which many times can be attributed to receiving continuing education credit after viewing), micro-webinars have started to take hold. Whether these are utilizing a webinar platform such as Adobe Connect or GoToMeeting, or going live on a social platform such as Facebook, the shorter 10-20 minute web events on specific topics continue to grow.
- Repurpose content you already have! Take those hour-long podcasts, webinars, and conference sessions, and start breaking them down! Utilize a team that can help you edit the content you already have into smaller chunks, and set aside some time to start creating new pieces of content that are each just a few minutes in length.
While it may seem like a daunting task to fit so much education into such a short amount of time, remember that while the content comes in small pieces, it doesn’t mean that your learners won’t string a few together at a time – now you are just making the content less intimidating for them to absorb!
Jocelyn Fielding – Director, Marketing & Sales Operations
Jocelyn is responsible for all marketing activities at Blue Sky eLearn, as well overseeing sales from an operational standpoint. She has over 10 years of experience in sales and marketing, with 7 of those years being spent at Blue Sky, marketing and selling to associations, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies. When Jocelyn isn’t working, she enjoys being outside – whether hiking or heading to the beach. She’s also an avid traveler, has been to six of the seven continents, and is always planning her next trip (or two!).