At the Moment of Need: Just-in-Time Learning
In the past our lives were dictated by schedules: TV schedules determined when we could watch our favourite shows and bus schedules determined when and where we could travel. Now, media streaming services made-on-demand entertainment an industry standard and mobile apps can now book transportation with just a button press. We are free to shape the pace of our lives.
The same is true of education. Having to wait for the next classroom session has already become ancient history. It’s now possible to learn information anytime and anywhere. This is a part of what’s called just-in-time (JIT) learning and it’s all around us. Think of looking up how to fix a computer bug or the definition of a word online. There is almost nothing that search engines cannot find an answer to, and the information is right at our fingertips. This is also the case with YouTube and how-to wikis, which provide information on-demand.
As a result, learners are used to having on-demand access to knowledge and skills. They don’t want to spend too much time searching for the right information, especially at the moment of need. Through technology, learning has hopped onto the on-demand service wagon too.
The best JIT learning is accessible on at-your-fingertips devices such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops, which can be used on the warehouse or sales floor, in the field, or wherever the learner happens to be. In other words, JIT learning emphasises gaining knowledge when learners need it rather than later when the information is irrelevant or less impactful.
Take a sales representative as an example. This company representative needs information to answer customer queries about a certain product or service. With JIT learning, this salesperson can go online using their mobile device and search the company database for the appropriate information or the corresponding short course. This provides access to the right information, at the right place, and at the right time.
This approach works best with learners who do not have much time to spend in front of a computer. Sales representatives, construction personnel, and field scientists are some of those who would benefit the most from this type of training method.
JIT learning is inherently linked to the idea of learning in the flow of work. Learning in the flow of work involves accessing, quickly and easily, an answer or a short piece of learning content while you’re working.
Here are some of the advantages of implementing JIT learning in the workplace.
Improved employee performance: Employees can stay up to date with the latest information and best practices and perform in their roles more efficiently. JIT approaches focus on helping employees perform optimally by giving them access to the information and tools they need at exactly the right time. JIT training is useful for frontline workers, who must think on their feet in front of customers. It enables them to be more effective and confident in their roles and deliver better results first time. Adopting a mobile first solution for deskless workers will help deliver learning where it’s needed most.
Speedy learning: Learners can get the information they need with a quick search, saving time. JIT learning usually focuses on smaller chunks of information. This means that your content is quick to consume, so your learners can focus on putting everything they have learned into practice.
Budget friendly: With JIT learning, organisations don’t have to spend money on creating materials for lengthy face-to-face training sessions or e-learning courses. Microlearning modules are relatively inexpensive to prepare and use.
It’s easy to update: Because it’s not in the form of a manual or an e-learning course heavy with animations, video, and an audio track, JIT learning is easier to update, keeping learners informed on the latest company innovations, sales strategies, or latest product roll-out.
Knowledge retention: JIT training approaches mean that employees only need to retain the most crucial and long-term information needed for their roles. Anything else they can look up as and when they need that information. This reduces cognitive overload, which then leads to better knowledge retention. JIT learning supports immediate reinforcement that helps to transfer new information to long-term memory.
Learner engagement: While we’ve discussed the quick-find aspects of JIT learning, it can also be used for bite-sized microlearning modules, database searches, and other methods that are initiated by the learner. An important aspect of letting the learner control their learning path is that they are encouraged to look for their own solutions – they are therefore self-motivated, more engaged in their work, and more likely to retain the information.
Here are some best practices for implementing JIT learning in the workplace.
Identify what’s needed just in time: Not all learning needs to be available just in time. when you create your JIT learning approach, start by determining which training resources should be easily available to your learners. This can be done by gathering data about common issues employees face and observing them on the job. This will help you to identify how employees use content and what they most often look for. It is crucial to talk to your team and ask them for suggestions, as they are the ones who will ultimately be using the learning solutions, and they will have the best idea of what they need.
Assess what’s currently being done: Before diving into JIT learning, examine your current approach to identify what’s working and what isn’t. Focus on recognising any learning issues that haven’t been resolved. Determine what makeshift solutions your learners use to fix common problems. What happens when learning isn’t accessible, and team-members are confused about how to move forward? Questions like this help to further clarify which training solutions should be accessible “just in time”.
Develop a learning culture: When learning is seen as a fundamental part of your organisation it helps your learners transition to JIT training successfully as training is no longer treated as a separate process but an essential part of the business itself. An advanced and active learning culture ensures your learners are accustomed to searching for information at the moment of need. This self-driven learning mindset is essential for JIT training as it focuses on enabling learners to actively seek out new knowledge and skills for themselves.
Break learning into chunks: Make sure you avoid drawn-out explanations by reducing information down into smaller components (microlearning). Only include details that are pertinent, and avoid lengthy, difficult to navigate content. Think about the type of scenario that calls for JIT learning. People usually expect an answer right away and need to find and process the essential information quickly. Making information easily searchable is a great way to ensure the correct lessons are reaching employees. The faster employees can access and use learning at the exact time of need, the more satisfied and productive they’ll be.
Use the right tools: Since JIT training emphasises flexibility as a priority, it requires responsive technology to work optimally. As such, your digital tools need to be adaptable too. One of the best ways to ensure effective JIT training is to offer a mobile-responsive learning management system (LMS) or a mobile learning solution. This allows learners to access content easily, regardless of their physical location.
Organise learning into categories: Once it’s been decided what types of training to include, begin grouping concepts together based on their similarities. Organising the different categories of training helps consolidate ideas. This will also help your team find information faster and more efficiently when you’ve put together your JIT learning model. You want employees to be able to access needed information quickly through quick reference tools, so grouping similar information together is a good first step.
JIT learning can be a beneficial training approach if deployed with a clear strategy. JIT learning is moving from a “nice to have” to a necessity as technology advances and the needs and expectations of the modern employee demand more easily accessible information.
Written by Rob Ewart