Webinar Overview: Microlearning for Safety Training

Webinar Overview: Microlearning for Safety Training

We host a number of informative webinars at Vector Solutions to try to help people with common workplace performance problems. There's a list of recorded, on-demand webinars and upcoming, live webinars at our Webinars webpage. 

In this article, we're going to review some of the key points from our recent Microlearning for Safety Training webinar. You can listen to that webinar by clicking the link below:

Recorded, On-Demand Webinar: Microlearning for Safety Training
(Vector Solutions Industrial and Vector Solutions AEC, webinar presenter Jeff Dalto, October, 2021) 

If your organization could use help with online safety and health training, including microlearning courses, let us know. We offer a learning management system (LMS), online safety and health elearning courses, and of course microlearning for safety training.

First, What Is Microlearning?

The webinar began by offering a few different definitions of microlearning.

The easiest, simplest definition we offered was something like "a short learning activity." Microlearning can be delivered in any delivery medium, so it doesn't have to be online or delivered through a mobile device, for example.

We offered some additional, alternative definitions. Another said it was a short learning activity that focused on one learning objective. And a third, borrowed from learning researcher Dr. Will Thalheimer, was much longer and much more nuanced but still had a lot in common with the definitions we offered already. Here's Dr. Thalheimer's definition from his Definition of Microlearning webpage:

“Relatively short engagements in learning-related activities—typically ranging from a few seconds up to 20 minutes (or up to an hour in some cases)—that may provide any combination of content presentation, review, practice, reflection, behavioral prompting, performance support, goal reminding, persuasive messaging, task assignments, social interaction, diagnosis, coaching, management interaction, or other learning-related methodologies.”

You may want to download our Microlearning Infographic, below, before you continue to learn more about microlearning for safety training. Go ahead--we'll wait.

Some Goals for Safety Training

As background information, we noted a few essential goals for safety trainers, including:

  • Helping people learn and understand
  • Helping people remember
  • Facilitating behavioral change on the job
  • Facilitating desired changes in desired performance outcomes and business outcomes

These are the things we should be keeping in mind when we're creating any type of safety training, including any microlearning for safety training.

We closed by mentioning Human Performance Improvement, or HPI. HPI is relevant because it's a tool that helps us identify and diagnose the cause of workplace problems and select the right intervention(s) to help improve the problem. Sometimes that intervention will be training, sometimes training will be part of the solution, and sometimes we'll learn that training won't help at all. To learn more about this, check out our What Is HPI? article and our Intro to HPI recorded, on-demand webinar.

Issues in Today's Workplace that Make Microlearning More Relevant than Ever

The webinar notes that there's nothing new about microlearning--it's been around for a long time and has been effective. However, there are some aspects of today's workplace that make microlearning even more valuable and helpful. These include:

  • Long work days
  • Many things coming at us all day
  • Information overload
  • The availability of mobile devices that make it easier for workers to access microlearning

Why Microlearning Can Help Us Given those Current Workplace Realities

So given the realities of work we listed above, what are a few surface-level reasons that microlearning can help us with our safety training? Here are a few simple reason:

  • It's short--so it's easier to fit into our day
  • It includes less information--so it's less likely to create cognitive overload
  • It can be delivered to those mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc.) that are so common these days

Adult Learning Principles & Microlearning

Folks often talk about "adult learning principles" but perhaps may not know exactly where they came from or what exactly they are (other than a general sense they involve hands-on training).

The phrase adult learning principles is most often used to refer to Malcolm Knowles' theory of Andragogy (see our Adult Learning Principles for Safety Training article for more detail on this). You'll see Knowles' adult learning principles listed out differently here and there because they're drawn from his writing and he himself never just sat down and wrote them up in list format, but they include the notions that adult learners:

  1. Are self-directed
  2. Bring a lifetime of knowledge and experience to training
  3. Are goal-oriented
  4. Want training to be relevant and task-oriented
  5. Learn when they are motivated to learn
  6. Like to be and feel respected

If you review that list from top to bottom, it's easy enough to see how microlearning can help a safety training incorporate adult learning principles into their safety training programs. For example:

Self-directed: Allowing workers to access microlearning courses when needed for performance support on the job appeals to this self-directed learning.

Goal-oriented, relevant, task-oriented: Microlearning that quickly explains a job process (the task) helps the worker satisfy their goal (get the job done). This is obviously relevant to a worker.

Learning when motivated: It's harder to keep a learner motivated during a 60-minute training presentation than it is during a 2-minute microlearning activity. Additionally, if workers can access microlearning on their own (through mobile devices, for example), they're more likely to do so when something at work motivates them to learn instead of just when it fits into the trainer's schedule.

Want to feel respected: Give an employee relevant information that helps them do their job and doesn't waste their time, and they'll feel respected.

Schemas and the Information Processing Model

If you're in the business of designing training, including delivering things you want employees to understand, remember, and later apply on the job, it's good to know some things about how we learn.

The webinar goes into this in more detail, but according to the information processing model of memory (which is a theory about how we encode and store information), we process information using our sensory memory, our working memory, and our long-term memory (in that order). New information is integrated into existing "packets" of related information called schemas in a process known as encoding. And hopefully, employees later retrieve and transfer that information when it's needed on the job as part of desired behaviors and workplace task performance.

Microlearning can assist with this process in a variety of ways. First, because it's short and includes less information, there's less of a chance that we'll overwhelm the employee's working memory, leading to cognitive overload. Second, because we can use microlearning to spread learning out over time (in learning campaigns) instead of delivering one-and-done training, taking advantage of an evidence-based training practice called spaced learning or spaced practice. And third, because we can provide microlearning activities to workers not as job training but as performance support them access when and where they need to while directly on the job, reducing the need to remember things at all. See our Microlearning for Performance Support article for more on that.

Microlearning & Evidence-Based Training Practices

The webinar mentions a few ways that microlearning can help us apply evidence-based training practices in our safety training. We have a longer article about evidence-based training practices, but here's a quick list of some ways that microlearning can be used to take advantage of evidence-based training practices:

  • Capture and keep learner's attention
  • Chunking
  • Desirable difficulties, including spaced practice and interleaving

Training, Performance Support & the Five Moments of Need (Mosher & Gottfredson)

We've already mentioned a few times that microlearning can be used for both training and performance support. In fact, one benefit of a microlearning activity is that you can easily use the same activity as part of a training program but also as performance support the worker accesses while on the job.

One great model to help us think about this, and help us design training that can be best used by employees, is the Five Moments of Need model by Mosher & Gottfredson (we encourage you to download their excellent Five Moments of Need ebook). In their model, employees need to learn at the following moments:

  • New--when learning something new
  • More--when learning more about something
  • Apply--when applying something they've learned
  • Solve--when things go wrong
  • Change--when things change

Looking at the list of moments of learning need above, you can use microlearning to help people learn something new and help people learn more (to learn more, spaced learning is especially helpful), and microlearning becomes especially important in the apply, solve, and change moments of need.

Some Benefits of Microlearning for Safety Training

You may have already gleaned much of this from what we've written above, but here's a short list of benefits you can get from incorporating microlearning into your safety training and performance support solutions:

  • It's easier to fit into the day (because it's shorter)
  • It reduces cognitive overload (because there's less information per activity)
  • It can increase retention (especially when used in spaced practice)
  • It can be used for training but also for performance support
  • It can be used to help workers learn when and where they need to learn
  • It uses up less time for training
  • It reduces training costs

Can You Make Your Own Microlearning for Safety Training?

Sure! Just like you can make any form of safety training, you can make safety training microlearning courses.

Of course, we make microlearning safety training courses and we'd be happy to partner with you to provide those to the workers at your organization, but you can make your own too. Do it without our courses; mix-and-match our courses and your own microlearning; etc. Whatever you decide!

Does Microlearning Have to be an eLearning Course Delivered via Computer or Mobile Device?

These days, it seems people often bring up mobile devices when they talk about microlearning. We did it ourselves in this article! And there's a reason for that--because mobile devices can make it a lot easier to get microlearning and other training to workers when and where it will provide the biggest benefit for learning and performance improvement.

But microlearning doesn't have to be delivered to a mobile device or even a computer. You can have a short safety discussion, like a tailgate talk or toolbox talk, for example.

Likewise microlearning can be delivered to a mobile device even if it's not an elearning course. It can be a video, or an infographic, or even just a text message.

So sure, safety trainers can make great use of elearning courses for microlearning, but don't forget all the other possibilities out there.

Additional Resources about Microlearning and Microlearning for Safety Training

In addition to this article and the recorded webinar we've already mentioned, you might also find the following resources about microlearning helpful:

Conclusion: Using Microlearning Can Safety and Health at Your Organization

We hope you found some benefit from this article. Let us know if we can help with your safety training program at work and let us know if you have questions to ask or experiences to share.


Want to Know More?

Reach out and a Vector Solutions representative will respond back to help answer any questions you might have.