Learning in bite-sized pieces

Written on May 23, 2016

By Kasi Orcutt, Manager, Business & Industry Learning

When I was a new marketing professional years ago, I landed a position working for a university that served adult learners. Since I had graduated from college with an English degree and had once dreamed of teaching, working in the educational industry held a certain allure for me. Looking back now, I realize that position sparked a love for learning that would define my career with The Ohio Society of CPAs.

Even though the need for continuing education has not decreased in the last 15 years, the world around us has experienced innovation at an extremely rapid pace. There are 3 billion global internet users, nearly 7 million mobile phone owners and 2 billion active users of social media. Everything anyone could ever need to know can be searched on Google or learned by watching a YouTube video. Attention spans are getting shorter (we’ve fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds – the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds!), generations in the workplace are becoming more diverse and the acquiring an education is often based on a learner’s available time, which is more and more limited.

After several years of working outside the education space, I began working at The Ohio Society of CPAs in 2012 and my love for learning was renewed once more. Working in the Learning Department I quickly realized the importance of ongoing skill development and how earning CPE was becoming more and more challenging as members dealt with an ever-changing work environment.

As associations, we are trusted business partners, advisors and advocates for our members and it is our responsibility to respond to the demands of the industry we represent. For OSCPA, we realized we had to anticipate the demands of tomorrow’s marketplace, which included building and implementing competencies and education models that would be crucial to the learning, development and success of accounting professionals and the clients they serve.

OSCPA had already implemented an on-demand product suite that offered more flexibility in the way members could attain CPE, so why did we feel the need to develop microlearning? What it boiled down to was that microlearning really does reflect the way people obtain information today.

OSCPA currently offers CPE through various delivery channels which include seminars, accounting shows, conferences, webcasts and self-study, which is mainly comprised of our on-demand product suite. However, despite all of those delivery options, we identified that the learning industry was rapidly changing and to remain successful as a value added organization we were facing several challenges that would impact the delivery of education.

Several factors supported our goal to implement “bite-sized learning”:

It is advancing at such a rapid pace that it is forcing individuals to adapt to new ways of learning. Shorter chunks of content delivered in video format makes it easier to stay up-to-date on the business environment. It also appeals to a generation of video-watching YouTubers, Viners, Facebookers, Instagrammers and Tweeters. Statistics show 51% of the millennial generation prefers video over text and that number will continue to grow!

Cultural shifts
Cultural shifts are occurring everywhere and OSCPA’s member dynamic is also changing. Fifty percent of our membership is nearing retirement age and a new generation of tech-savvy, ambitious and time-constrained professionals are flooding the job market. Those individuals are accustomed to leveraging technology for learning as well as social use.

Disruptions to the industry are continually challenging accounting professionals, including frequent new laws and regulations, increased competition,

new business models and ever-changing job roles. Disruption also comes in the form of technology and digital distractions. The shorter time frame of microlearning allows people to fit learning into break times.

Providing a microlearning platform that is accessible via multiple devices allows us to better leverage CPE, for our members in their everyday work environment. The courses are available online through our storefront and virtual classroom via smart phones, tablets and laptops. By offering just 10 minutes of microlearning downtime training is possible and members can create their own learning opportunities by utilizing time they wouldn’t normally use to earn CPE, i.e. in the lunch room or waiting for a flight. Since microlearning is so accessible, it also allows our members to choose their own education timeframe and get quicker results.

In December 2015 I was invited to speak about microlearning at a technology conference in Washington DC and it was amazing to see how interested attendees were in microlearning and the value it brings to education. I often hear people question the value of learning in such brief increments – the Accountancy Board of Ohio approved a minimum of 10-minutes for OSCPA (which made us the first CPA association in the nation to offer microlearning) but my response is to ask how often they use the internet to look up the answer to something they need to know. Microlearning occurs in many ways, like reading an article or watching a video. Offering microlearning courses for our members simply makes sense for the future of learning.

Kasi Orcutt is a manager of business and industry learning for the Ohio Society of CPAs.

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