SaaS training is the latest opportunity for companies to eschew large, CapEx investments in favour of better-value OpEx alternatives.
Few people get excited about corporate training and for good reason. For organisers, the gathering of staff into a particular location or getting them to do an eLearning course is akin to herding cats, while those taking the courses themselves are generally unenthusiastic, unwilling, disengaged adults who are not used to learning new things. Not surprisingly, completion rates of eLearning courses rarely top 20 per cent. But things are changing thanks to new SaaS training offerings.
Traditional, eLearning-based corporate training usually involves a training-course company creating multiple courses which client corporations then subscribe to. Courses are created on a one-size-fits-all basis and the course creators rarely get to see the results of their work. This all means that content doesn’t get adjusted if it’s not working well and that course updates rarely happen. Consequently, courses become out of date very quickly – making them even harder for learners to engage with and relate to.
On top of this, courseware is distributed in the lowest-common-denominator file format (usually SCORM) which has been around for almost 20 years. This means it’s rarely compatible with modern computing features (especially interactivity and gamification). The result of all this is having users stuck in front of lengthy, multiple-choice courses that cite only partially-relevant information. Learning can become passive, tedious and ineffective.
Microlearning-based SaaS training to the rescue
However, there is a movement among eLearning companies which looks to provide training software that utilises a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model coupled with microlearning. Microlearning involves breaking topics down into easily-digestible, bite-sized chunks that don’t overwhelm learners with new information. By sticking to just a few points (three to five works best), the likelihood of learners retaining the new knowledge is dramatically enhanced. It’s the principal behind why learning the first 10 digits of Pi feels impenetrable when presented as 3.141592653 but suddenly becomes approachable when displayed in three chunks: 3.141 592 653.
Over recent years it’s come to the fore of company training, mainly through enhancing and augmenting existing programs rather than replacing them. Just recently, company training behemoth Cornerstone bought industry-leading, microlearning content company Grovo in a US$24m deal. However, microlearning is also thriving as SaaS that enables companies to easily make their own training courses and lessons.
In these instances, microlearning is leveraging the fact that smartphone ownership is ubiquitous among employees and that small training courses can subsequently be distributed straight to workers’ own pockets via apps and the cloud. Doing this brings with it additional opportunities to make learning even more effective.
Firstly, there’s interactivity. The computational power of modern smartphones means that elaborate, interactive gamified versions of lessons can be performed. This is simple to implement by uploading existing training content into gamified templates which transform basic multiple choice questions into engaging, interactive quizzes.
Another effective teaching methodology is called peer learning. Learning industry experts agree that all company training should contain a significant proportion of peer learning, i.e. workers teaching workers. This makes sense as no outsider knows your company’s processes, practices and policies better than your own employees and having them present that information to their colleagues makes for more-relatable and engaging learning. It can also provide new side businesses by enabling companies to train new entrants to their market.
When learning doesn’t feel like learning it becomes dramatically more effective... even fun. It’s common to see course competition rates hit 90 per cent – higher if incentives and prizes are offered.
Traditional eLearning software typically involves using expensive eLearning authoring software to create courses which then get fed to organisations’ own, expensive distribution software called a Learning Management System. However, microlearning is more focused on how many users are accessing the system. After all, much of the authoring is automated and distribution happens via the cloud. This makes it ideally suited to a SaaS business model which, as seen in similar cases, has the potential to save companies significant costs through switching to OpEx over huge, one-off capital expenditures on training software plus the content to go with it.
More importantly, learners actually retain the information they are given, meaning that lower spending is ultimately increasing the value of all human capital investment. This means that SaaS training is the latest SaaS segment to provide the perfect win-win scenario of improving operational efficiency, lowering costs while improving outcomes.
Darren Winterford is Director of EdApp Microlearning