Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Applying Microlearning to Technician Training
Article originally appeared here.
Even before the pandemic, remote and online methods of education and training had begun to make huge strides and increase in popularity. It came as no surprise that 2020 caused the adoption of online learning platforms and materials to skyrocket as the pandemic halted a majority of in-person activities.
With this rise in remote online education, microlearning emerged as a highly effective teaching method in both learning and business environments. The adoption of microlearning training techniques has grown in popularity across many industries, and the trades are no exception.
So, what the heck is microlearning?
While you won’t find a formal definition for microlearning in the dictionary, the term has become widely popular in schools and businesses alike. Microlearning refers to the consumption of small “bite-sized” amounts of content that are ideally suited for skills training. The goal is to deliver brief, instructional pieces of training material that a learner can easily retain and consume at their convenience.
Common Forms of Microlearning
These bite-sized chunks of learning material can be delivered in several forms, but a few reign supreme.
- Simple, concise text (a few short sentences)
- Instructional pictures/photos
- Quick video snippets
- Recorded audio
- Learning activities/games
Numbers Don’t Lie
So, why is microlearning so popular? Because it’s proven to be more effective for today’s learners. This style of training and learning continues to grow in popularity as studies show that both students and employees are more receptive and likely to retain shorter, more concise educational and training materials.
- A recent study by the Journal of Applied Psychology found that microlearning makes the transfer of learning 17% more efficient.
- A report by Software Advice, found that microlearning can increase employee engagement with learning tools by more than 50%.
- A study out of the University of California-Irvine found that learning in stretches of 3-7 minutes matches the working memory capacity and attention spans of humans.
How does this apply to the trades?
It’s no secret that the trades industry is facing a knowledge and skill gap. The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook tells a scary story of upcoming shortages in skilled tradespeople through the year 2028. While the growing number of job vacancies in the trades may look grim, the good news is that help is in the pipeline.
The New York State Department of Labor projects significant growth in high-paying skilled occupations through 2024. Another report found that California is expected to spend more than $200 million a year to create and improve career technical education programs to meet the state’s need for trades workers.
As the skilled trades industry begins to attract a new and younger generation of workers, we’ll have to turn to new and innovative methods to educate and train this fresh crop of young technicians.
Microlearning – Your Techs’ New Best Friend
The trades is the perfect setting for microlearning – both in terms of process training and equipment education. Microlearning is geared towards skills training, and breaking down the procedures that a technician should follow while on the job into short, easily digestible chunks of content can help them level up their skills more quickly.
Now, we’re not saying to replace formal technician training with YouTube videos. Instead, we suggest incorporating certain aspects of microlearning into your normal training and on the job procedures.
Example 1 – Equipment Training
When training a technician on a complex piece of equipment, you probably don’t expect them to master and understand the specifics of servicing the unit in one go. That amount of technical training and information would likely go over any new tech’s head.
Instead, a more efficient use of time is to divide training on that unit into smaller segmented sections. These sections can be made up of in-person training sessions, instructional videos, written materials, etc. that can be delivered over a specific period or time or accessed at the technician’s convenience. This allows the technician to quickly master a smaller component or procedure for this piece of equipment then move on until they master the entire unit or repair.
Example 2 – Process Training
The goal of any service company is to provide quality service on every job. Creating and ensuring a high standard of service is the best way for service companies to differentiate their business and retain and attract customers.
Quality control is key, and technology can be a huge asset to service providers looking to ensure and monitor the quality of work their technicians provide. Implementing a technology solution that arms technicians with automated step by step checklists of the processes they are required to follow on the job ensures that each completed job meets the same standards.
Microlearning can be incorporated into these step by step checklists or workflows through the addition of instructional text, videos, photos, etc. By including bite-sized instructions to each step, you can ensure that each technician completes and documents every step properly.
Example 3 – Collaborating Outside Your Organization
Whether you work with one or multiple tiers across an organization, utilizing technology to create a ‘partner network’ can extend the process standardization and microlearning capabilities outlined in Example 2 to the organizations, affiliations, and groups that you and your techs work with.
Multi-channel workflows allow you to share processes, content, training tips, and best practices with any OEMs, Distributors, Peer Groups, Dealers, Technicians, and Subcontractors you may work with. Because this extends the step by step checklists from Example 2 outside of your organization, the microlearning instructional bits of content become exponentially more important in explaining and ensuring everyone understands the processes they must follow.
Example 4 – Technician Support & Troubleshooting
Too often when a technician runs into a problem in the field or a job ends up being outside their skillset, they are forced to call in backup, resulting in a second truck roll. This scenario is inconvenient for everyone as it costs the provider more time and money.
Technology and microlearning can help service providers avoid second truck rolls in a couple different ways.
- Reference job history – Allows the tech to easily reference past jobs on a specific or similar unit, reviewing any notes, photos, and even videos previous technicians may have left.
- Easily searchable knowledge base – Technology arms the tech with a growing library of relevant equipment information, diagrams, manuals, training videos, and wireframes. From there, the tech can easily search for a specific unit or problem type to help them learn while on the job.
- Remote video training & troubleshooting – Real-time remote video calling allows the tech to reach out to a more experienced technician for a quick and remote training and troubleshooting session. This helps avoid a second truck roll and helps the technician learn while on the job.
Keep Things Short & Simple
The key trend with microlearning is keeping learning sessions and training materials brief and easily digestible. For greener technicians in the field and office, this type of bite-sized training and learning is perfect as it can be tailored to their specific learning and working needs.
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