Luckily, we are in the midst of a micro-learning revolution in the educational sector, which provides additional opportunities for learning throughout one’s career. Here’s the story of how my association threw itself into this new phase:
WHERE IT BEGAN
At the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants, we embraced the power of micro-learning back in 2015. We wanted to model better educational practices and learning innovation. Those of us who’ve been in the education business for a long time know that sitting in a chair being lectured to for an hour is not the ideal situation for most people. Our staff had been working with regulators on adding flexibility and learning best practices to compliance-based education models, which resulted in a push towards micro-learning.
Having been in the on-demand learning business for some time, we already had a studio and produced self-paced, self-study content in one hour segments. It was easy to shift into micro-learning from a production perspective. For us, this meant creating stand-alone, ten minute video increments.
ADVANTAGES OF MICRO-LEARNING
In the accounting world, regulatory changes come thick and fast, and CPAs have to prioritize keeping on top of them. Micro-learning works well for frequent, just-in-time changes. We have contracted someone to monitor the regulatory space, so now within twenty-four hours of a new financial standard being issued to the marketplace, we have a micro-learning product created, developed, and ready to go. This responsive model condenses what CPAs need to know into an ongoing stream of small updates, instead of compiling them over time into an hour-long lesson.
It all sits on a spectrum – micro-learning introduces a concept and gives an awareness, then later a learner might move on to a workshop or a deeper dive if necessary.
People often ask about market adaption to our micro-learning style, wondering how you can learn anything substantial in ten minutes. I tell them that an educated adult can read and digest an article in the Harvard Business Review in that time, so why can’t a video serve the same purpose? Despite some sceptics, we have found success and acceptance in the CPA world, and we’d like to see that grow deeper across Ohio.
Changing habits and mindsets proves easy when members are pressed for time and we offer them quick learning solutions. Often, people assume that young, technologically savvy types will be the ones to get on board with micro-learning, but we find seasoned professionals to be equally enthusiastic about valuable educational content that speaks to their needs.
Our members tell us there are three things that keep them up at night: regulatory changes, the pace of change of their business, and talent management. How do employers find qualified talent at all levels? How do they train that talent to be productive and aligned with our company direction? Many market forces are putting pressure on talent management, such as the disparity between the growing number of accounting graduates and the plateaued rate of those pursuing the CPA credential. Add to that pressures on the educational environment, and many new employees are showing up in positions without certain key skills. There is an opportunity for micro-learning to fill the gap between formal education and job-readiness.
Associations can take on the responsibilities of a lifelong learning provider, and bridge the gap between employers and employees. We are on the cusp of a significant change in how associations create value for both their membership base and their employers.
As it stands, only a small percentage of our customer base utilizes micro-learning in some capacity, and I’d like to see that number grow. We have slowed down development of new products to take a broader look at existing offerings from a strategic perspective, while continuing down the path of monitoring regulatory changes and building a subscription model. Ideally I believe a model, where people buy into a content area and access material as it becomes available, would allow us to push new products towards members who have signed up for ongoing learning opportunities, instead of pulling in new customers every time we release something.
Our journey so far into the future of learning has been eye-opening, challenging and informative. We’re on the cusp of a transformational period in our organization, changing the ways we create value for the CPA marketplace through what we build, who we partner with, and how we bring ideas to market. Micro-learning is only the beginning.
Inspired by these insights? Josh recently spoke at SURGE 2017, our virtual conference, on the Future of Learning for associations. The speakers’ ideas, and the contributions of the participants in the online forum, have been compiled into an e-book which you can download here.