By Mark Nelson
Welcome back to part four of our five-part series, exploring the power of a microlearning app in acquiring knowledge and skills in the digital age. Previously, we examined mobile-first learning, gamification and personalization. Today we’ll discuss social learning, and how it enhances long-term learning success.
What is Social Learning?
Social learning theory is a psychological perspective that focuses on how individuals acquire new behaviors and knowledge through observation, imitation and modeling within their social environment. Developed by Albert Bandura, this theory proposes that learning is not solely based on direct reinforcement or punishment, but is significantly influenced by the observation of others’ actions and the consequences they experience.
Central to social learning theory is the concept of modeling, where individuals learn by watching others and emulating their actions, behavior and words. Bandura highlighted the importance of cognitive processes in this learning, emphasizing factors such as attention, retention, reproduction and motivation.
Social Learning and the Microlearning App
Microlearning apps emulate social theory as observation, imitation and modeling are all inherent to their form and function. Let’s examine how the four factors of attention, retention, reproduction and motivation are crucial to the success of knowledge transfer in video-based microlearning.
Attention. To truly internalize what we learn from watching others, we must pay close attention. This is more likely to happen when we can relate to or have positive feelings for the person we are watching. We need to trust them. The learning process becomes even more effective when the observer is invested in the process of observing or has strong feelings about what they are observing. Factors like complexity, distinctiveness and functional value impact an individual’s attention, so success stems from keeping content simple, direct and relevant. Simply put, we are far more likely to pay attention if we can readily understand how observing will benefit us.
Video-based microlearning apps attract and maintain viewers’ attention through short but relevant bursts of information. For instance, let’s say that John needs to splice a wire, but isn’t sure how. His company recorded one of John’s co-workers doing this and uploaded it to the Tyfoom app, which provides employees with an extensive library of resources accessible at the touch of a button. Employees can review brief 1- to 2-minute videos and quickly access the information they need without sifting through mountains of resources or losing valuable time on irrelevant information. John is much more likely to pay attention to the microlearning video because it is short, engaging and directly relevant to his situation.
Retention. To truly learn something, we must be able to remember it. Once observers can recall the experience, going over it in their mind or even acting it out can reinforce the memory. There’s a reason it’s called “muscle memory!”
Having a centralized library of video content that is fingertip accessible and available on demand without prerequisites is essential to providing employees with quick and relevant information. Employees can review these videos and pause them as needed as they complete the steps along with the instructor. Going back to our example, John can quickly pull up a short video made by Janice who is a master electrician. Because the video is short, the sequence of actions for splicing a wire is easily remembered.
Reproduction. Once we have observed the model with our full attention and have a workable memory base of the actions required, we are ready to actually perform the behavior we observed. The power of video-based microlearning apps is their ability to provide immediate guidance if the individual gets stuck in the process of completing the task.
In our example, John is now ready to splice the wire himself. He carefully observed Janice (the model) perform the action in the video and has a solid working memory of what the process looks like. John can now complete the steps alongside Janice, pausing the video if needed. The next time John must splice a wire, he will have a solid memory base and may not require assistance. But if he does, the video is still there, on-demand, ready to give a refresher!
Motivation. Even if we’ve learned something well, we still need the motivation to actually do it. An urgent need to complete a task can provide some motivation. But often, motivation comes from external rewards, seeing that others are rewarded for the same behavior, wanting to be like a role model, or having a personal desire to improve. Other things like personal traits, past experiences, promised rewards, competition and positive or negative consequences can also affect motivation.
Video-based microlearning apps can inspire motivation in various forms. For example, the leaderboard within the Tyfoom app motivates employees to increase their TSR scores, engagement scores and quiz scores. Employers can increase motivation by tying year-end bonuses to individual engagement scores or overall company scores. Many companies are surprised at how competitive employees are at having higher scores in these areas than co-workers. This motivation leads to an increase in adoption of video-based microlearning apps by the employees who use them.
Mental States and Behavior Change
External motivators are not the only factors that influence learning. Intrinsic motivators or internal rewards like satisfaction, pride, or a sense of accomplishment can be a more powerful incentive in the long-term. Shifting a mental state from externally motivated to internally motivated can determine whether or not a behavior is learned. Simply put, employees who want to become more, truly become more successful.
Microlearning apps provide autonomy, purpose and mastery which are essential to intrinsic motivation. Individuals are more likely to enjoy learning when it is viewed as an opportunity to actualize their potential. Microlearning apps artfully fulfill this need by providing opportunities to explore and learn new skills that are directly relevant to the individual.
Tyfoom goes one step further by offering microlearning in the flow of work through a platform that is simple and aesthetically pleasing to view, and easy to interact with. The enjoyment found in daily practice quickly becomes a lifelong habit.
It is important to note, however, that for all the virtues of social learning, it does not guarantee behavior change. In other words, learning something does not automatically result in a change to behavior. Tyfoom overcomes this by employing gamification. Gamification fosters long-term behavior change through points and badges, progress tracking, real-world competition, and instant feedback.
Sight, Sound and Symbolism: Observational Learning and the Microlearning App
Bandura posed that people learn through three observational models: live models, symbolic models, and verbal instructional models. Microlearning apps are exceptionally powerful for learning because they inherently comprise all three models at once.
Sight. Tyfoom provides live models within its short 1- to 2-minute videos. For example, say Bob in the mechanical department is the best at changing a lug nut. The company can record Bob and his process. Other employees can then watch the recording and imitate what Bob does until they too can successfully change a lug nut with ease.
Sound. Microlearning videos contain audio that provides descriptions and explanations of a behavior. With Tyfoom, employees not only see it done, but receive detailed instructions as to how and why certain actions are performed.
Symbolism. Symbolic models involve real or fictional characters demonstrating behaviors (think Smokey the Bear – only you can prevent forest fires!) These characters can appear in all kinds of formats including TV, movies, commercials, online media, books, etc. For example, many of the microlearning videos in Tyfoom’s library feature “Safety Sam.” Safety Sam makes safety engaging and memorable with her clever quips and delightful safety puns.
Social Learning in the Mobile Age
The advancements in mobile app technologies have greatly expanded the potential of social learning, facilitating a sense of community and collaboration that was previously challenging to achieve. Video-based microlearning apps have transformed the traditional learning experience, moving beyond formal training structures and integrating social elements that reflect how we naturally acquire knowledge. Tyfoom harnesses the power of observation and imitation by allowing companies to duplicate their most effective and efficient employees. Video-based microlearning not only passes on the most effective knowledge from the most seasoned people, it also acknowledges employees for being good at what they do, creating an enduring culture of recognition and respect.
Tyfoom is continuously innovating and adapting to the changing needs of organizations and learners to help transform true knowledge transfer and promote highly-engaged corporate learning cultures. To learn more about how you can revolutionize employee training, communication and engagement in your organization, schedule a meeting to speak with a Tyfoom training consultant.
Microlearning Trends: Part Four
In our final segment of this series we will discuss and better understand how learners engage with microlearning content, and determine how best to use the data-rich terrain of analytics, identifying both areas of struggle and success for learners.