Nano Learning To Shake up Upskilling

Image credit: iStockphoto/Melpomenem

Our image of learning is rooted in our past experience as a student.

Mention the word “learning,” and images of classrooms, lecturers, and libraries stacked with informative books come into mind.

However, James Chia, the chief executive of ArcLab, thinks differently. He believes that traditional long-form learning had its place, but nano learning is the way forward.

“When we think of training or adult learning, we typically picture a classroom with an instructor in front, and us sitting in rows and paying attention for four hours (or attempting to anyway). So, this is no different from when we were 12,” said Chia.

“Sometimes it is interactive, but often-times it’s the trainer downloading his/her knowledge. The trainer attempts to cover a lot of content at one sitting and squeeze in as much as possible. Typically, we do this face-to-face, though, with COVID-19, we’ve started to do more of this online,” he added.

Rethinking learning

Long-form learning has several issues. Holding everyone’s attention is the biggest. A good instructor, orator, or engaging curriculum can help, but “very honestly, not every trainer is super engaging or can speak super clearly,” said Chia.  

Other concerns include the one-way direction in which information flows (from the trainer to the trainees) and the inability to process a lot of knowledge at one.

“Which is why you see good websites, good speakers, good ads tend to have one main message. But in traditional workplace learning, we don’t put this into practice,” said Chia.

ArcLab is advocating bite-sized, highly-targeted, and interactive learning. It calls it nano learning.

Chia noted that the approach is to create nano learning modules that “span between 2 and 10 minutes)”, focused on a single learning objective and uses rich media and “on-the-spot” assessments.  

“It’s a great pedagogical framework that engages learners, helps learners apply knowledge, and is available on-demand.”

Chia likened nano learning to how we look up information and subjects on YouTube. In fact, he felt that we already do it, and his company is just making it mainstream.

Employer, employee benefits

One advantage of nano learning is that it is not dependent on classrooms or training facilities. It is a huge advantage in today’s COVID-19 era.

“Instead of gathering everyone for learning, which is hard to do in our new COVID-19 normal world, we can instead have the training pushed directly to learners’ phones, in an engaging and effective format, digitally,” said Chia.

ArcLab is also making it easier by having no upfront implementation, minimum subscriptions, or consultation costs. Companies can decide how they want to roll out their nano learning programs and tweak them to their culture.  

“Once organizations and staff get comfortable with this new, enhanced format of training, scaling up is then easily done,” said Chia.

Nano learning uses existing performance support materials, such as training manuals, 101s, primers, and standard operating procedures.

“These performance support materials can now be made digital, so staff can easily access information for them to do their jobs as and when they need it, on their mobile phones to do their job better. This is especially important in today’s remote work environment where you can no longer gather staff in a training room, especially across country boundaries,” said Chia.

HR in control

Nano learning can also provide more data to the HR team about their workforce’s learning & ability to perform the required job role. The same data from learning performance can better “contextualize and personalize training for the future.”

“This can be done through ArcLab’s learning analytics dashboard at a glance. This helps HR in staff development planning and optimizing talent & people resources for different areas of the organization - to support business objectives,” said Chia.

The platform also allows for the awarding of skills badges and NanoCredentials. Chia is also working with educational institutes to align nano learning modules with practical skills.  

“We advocate that L&D teams work with the Compensation & Benefits team to put in place a framework that acknowledges and rewards good training outcomes that translate into higher productivity. In that way, organizations create a virtuous cycle where your workforce sees the benefits to them (and your organization) that training brings — incentivizing them to continue their training. This improves staffs’ livelihoods and reduces their financial stress. Hopefully, this also increases staff loyalty and reduces turnover, which is costly!” added Chia.

Reimagining field training

ArcLab’s core goal is to upskill the “World’s Deskless” workforce. “A big part of this is our rank-and-file workforce, which is not well-served by our current educational and vocational training system,” said Chia.  

He pointed to the Op-ed by Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shamugaratnam as a key motivation for this.

Chia noted that ArcLab reduces the friction of training for field workers by delivering the modules to them in the field so that they do not need to take time off.  This can reduce the impact on their earnings and productivity. The use-based pricing also allows employers to optimize their training spend.

While ArcLab offers a technology platform, Chia argued that a robust learning program comes down to the people. Here, top-down support is crucial.

“We have to start with people. Understanding the workforce’s needs, what motivates them, and how to align with the organization’s goals, with the right mindsets, right incentives, the right tool kit. That’s where support from the very top is needed, and change starts with our leaders first,” said Chia.

Beyond Singapore

ArcLab has global ambitions.

While the company is scaling growth and distribution in Singapore, it raises funding to expand across global markets.

“We recently started serving companies in Malaysia, signed a channel partnership with a company in Hong Kong, and are in discussions with an education conglomerate in Japan. A little further down the road, we also have ambitions for bringing ArcLab further, to Europe as a next port-of-call — and are in discussions with potential partners in Italy and the U.K., where I’d worked for a few years,” said Chia.

Image credit: iStockphoto/Melpomenem