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Learning on demand

Effective learning at the precise moment of need

Decorative image Learning on Demand in e-learning

Thanks to Netflix, Spotify, and the like, streaming on demand is today a common concept in entertainment: We can stream whenever and wherever we like, for as long as we want, and above all whatever we choose—free from the constraints of analog television and radio. Because the world of work is also becoming increasingly free, for example through hybrid working models, rapid change and the constant need for new knowledge, it is only logical that there must be change here, too. After all, why shouldn’t the on-demand system—which brings so many benefits for the private sector—also be of benefit to companies? 

This article sets out the benefits of the learning-on-demand via eLearning, and explains how to integrate learning on demand into your internal learning culture.


What does learning on demand mean?

In the context of learning, “on demand” means content and materials are available around the clock, whenever they are needed. It therefore includes mobile access and fully responsive online courses—if you don’t have access to a PC somewhere, you can always access a smartphone. If companies’ in-house training is offered in this way, learning can be adapted to individual working patterns and situations and thus simply becomes the logical consequence of increased individualization, hybrid working models, home working and remote working.

As with any on-demand system, learning on demand focuses on the precise moment of need. In the context of training, the moment of need arises when a specific problem is encountered. But as we know, we don’t encounter problems when we’re sitting studying at our desks; they arise in the course of everyday work. According to the 70–20–10 rule, this is also when the majority of learning takes place—but only if problems are met with an appropriate solution.

Learning on demand exploits this potential for cognitive performance and supports the learning process by enabling employees to access the solution they require immediately: so it’s a win–win for everyone involved!


The 70–20–10 model

Visualisation eLearning model 70-20-10

70 per cent of skills are acquired by tackling difficult tasks and through professional challenges; 20 per cent through employees’ professional environment and, crucially, their superiors; and 10 per cent through traditional training, for instance by taking part in seminars and by reading books and articles, or by absorbing content via other learning formats.


So instead of learning only on company premises—which takes no account of learners’ motivation or cognitive capacity—employees can use “downtime”, such as their morning journey on the train, or take advantage of times when they are particularly highly motivated. After all, modern models of working also make it possible to adapt work to individuals’ rhythm of activity and sleep, or to personal commitments. So it’s only logical for individuals to learn at the most effective time for them.


…or whether they will actually be able to retrieve it when they do need it! On the other hand, the motivation to learn is never higher than when the knowledge gained actually enables learners to solve a specific problem. While you would otherwise probably have had to provide your employees with extrinsic motivation, learning on demand creates a new level of intrinsic motivation. And we know that intrinsically motivated learners achieve better learning outcomes!


Instead of acquiring only theoretical knowledge, they apply it directly and this helps with long term retention. And this is further proof of the greater effectiveness of on demand learning.


At the same time, companies save by not having to deliver less efficient and less individualized training courses, and on the associated costs of lecturers, travel, and downtime.


Learning at the moment of need

The 5 moments of need

Although most content is suitable for learning on demand at the precise moment of need, there are a few exceptions. Two good examples of this are occupational safety and health training and data protection training, which are intended to prevent problems occurring in the first place. In these cases, waiting for a moment of need would mean learning only occurred after a problem—or even an accident—had already happened. In order to decide which learning content is suitable for flexible, voluntary, self-directed learning, it is helpful to look at the “Five Moments of Need” model developed by Mosher & Dr. Gottfredson:

5 moments of need


(1) “Learning something new” and 
(2) “Learning more about something” 

are part of formal learning, and can certainly be achieved through compulsory courses and webinars, points 3 to 5 describe Performance Support as discussed in this article: 

(3) “Applying or remembering something”
(4) “When a problem occurs”
(5) When something changes.

Performance Support therefore provides help in the moment it is needed.

Using the example of occupational safety training, it can be seen that it should/must actually be delivered as a mandatory and scheduled course, but it may be worth making individual sections such as “The right way to lift heavy objects” or “Healthy posture” available on a permanent basis in accordance with (3).

Nadine Pedro
[Translate to English:] Nadine Pedro, chemmedia AG

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Two effective methods for implementing learning on demand

Method 1: Microlearning

In microlearning, knowledge is not conveyed through complex online courses, but in small units that take a maximum of 1 to 15 minutes to complete. This makes microlearning ideal for delivering quick answers at a moment of need—in the same way as we use Google in to retrieve information we are interested in personally. “Nuggets” can be presented in a variety of formats: Explanatory videos, quizzes, flashcards, infographics, traditional text-based excerpts from online courses—they can all be prepared with the right eLearning software. In addition to the benefits of learning on demand that have been discussed above, microlearning provides other particular advantages both for companies and for learners:


Advantages of microlearning

Microlearning is effective

We are best able to retain and retrieve knowledge when we learn it in small bites and then revise and apply it over and over again.

Microlearning is flexible

Microlearning can be easily combined with other digital or even analog learning formats to create an effective learning journey. It allows you to prepare or review complex seminars, for example, which in turn makes it easier for learners to apply such knowledge, thus improving learning outcomes.

Nuggets are quick to create

In contrast to broader online courses, they allow you to quickly create and roll out small units of knowledge, thus reducing internal development time.

Nuggets are reusable

Subdividing a big learning objective into smaller units means that with the right authoring tool you always have the option to recycle individual modules and integrate them into new courses.


Method 2: Blended learning

The term “blended learning” refers to a mix of different forms of learning. The aim is to combine the advantages of analog face-to-face events, such as seminars or workshops, with the flexibility of digital learning. Analog content can be digitally consolidated by supplementing compulsory and face-to-face training with a freely editable digital curriculum, for example—an ideal combination if you consider how individual learning processes are.

For example, if lecturers are finding it difficult to take account of different paces and types of learning in face-to-face training, digital learning can compensate for the resulting gaps in knowledge by allowing all participants to deepen their new knowledge as appropriate—provided that the online courses are available everywhere and at any time. This approach enables companies and learners to gain the benefits of both eLearning and face-to-face learning: each learning method offsets the other’s disadvantages.

Learning on demand can also mean that individual topics from broader classroom-based training are made available in small microlearning units, allowing learners to retrieve and revise important topics at any time. Extensive (face-to-face) software training on the learning platform can thus be retrieved in the form of very small digital units, for instance “how-to” units providing explicit, quick and easy-to-follow answers to small, detailed questions.


The bottom line

Making learning on demand part of internal corporate learning culture is simply a logical and state-of-the-art response to the ever-growing demands made of employees on a daily basis by the knowledge society.  The benefits are obvious: The more demand-oriented employees learning can be—and the faster they can identify solutions to problems—the more efficiently they can work. Instead of going through the arduous process of incentivizing employees to learn, learning on demand provides natural motivation by presenting knowledge as a concrete solution to an acute problem rather than a preventative measure. Specific gaps in knowledge can be quickly filled and the new knowledge applied directly. The capabilities of the Knowledgeworker suite make it child’s play to implement.

Magda Lehnert | Blogger
Magda Lehnert

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Title image: Branislav Nenin/shutterstock.com