Investing in high-impact learning that lasts

Bite-sized training in the form of short modules is gaining in popularity and can also be high-impact depending on the approach. Certain learning methods and tools result in more gains than traditional training but also may give us good cause to rethink our preference for fast learning.

Companies want their investments in learning and development to deliver quick but also lasting results. Indeed, they often cannot afford anything less. Traditional training models are valued most when we can observe fast changes in behaviour and skills but the latest cognitive science that supports ‘machine learning’ also gives us new insights into what works and doesn’t for humans.

Cognition includes functions like memory and attention and relates to what we believe and how we think in order to transform experience into learning. Scientists and cognitive psychologists suggest that even if we could up-load information and skills directly into our brains that we shouldn’t, as the ultimate learning outcomes will be very short-lived. However, if we’re to get lasting benefits from learning, we do need to evolve our methods.

The Engineering Skillnet embraces the ‘H.I.L.L. - High Impact Learning that Lasts’ model originating from the University of Maastricht. Research shows that H.I.L.L. can be up to 80% more effective than traditional models. Its core principles include: Creating Urgency; Action & Sharing; Hybrid learning; ‘Learner agency’; Collaboration and coaching; Flexibility; and Assessment-as-learning.

These can be summarised as –


To trigger a sense of urgency and relevancy by employing real-life, often open-ended problems that learners face in their day-to-day work and lives.

Action and sharing

Most people learn best by doing and by sharing their experiences with others to encourage knowledge sharing through group projects and other collaborative exercises.

Hybrid learning

If the last two years have taught us anything it is the value of hybrid learning where face-to-face sessions are blended with online tutorials and webinars. This has been proven to enhance learner commitment and engagement when utilised properly.

‘Learner agency’

Engineers should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own choices around learning and development. This helps them to see beyond content of training courses to view learning as on ongoing, lifelong process.

Collaboration and coaching

Both working collaboratively in small groups and a coaching approach from managers enhances the integration of new skills into the work setting.


A combination of formal learning, based on structured exercises with set objectives, and informal learning, based on solving real life problems and challenges, can be highly impactful.

Assessment as learning
While not all programmes require one, assessments can be a very valuable learning tool. By introducing short feedback loops before, during and after, the focus is on learners understanding how well they have progressed and what they might need to do next.

A good example of applying our recently launched ‘3D modelling and prototyping’ course, combining self-directed video material, ‘on-demand’ coaching and group Q&A. We’re looking forward to welcoming learners on each Demonstration Day as a chance to meet with coaches and reflect on the ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ they have learnt over the programme.

The Engineering Skillnet creates engaging and enjoyable ‘safe-to-fail’ spaces where staff can experience learning as mutually independent. Our members also see training as a great way to reconnect often hybrid workforces. Learning is facilitated best by social interaction and emotions play an important part in this as they enable memory to make learning stick. While the potential of Artificial Intelligence is yet to be fully realised, boosting human-centric learning is well worth both our investment and time.

If you’d like to learn more about the difference between Industry 4.0 and Employment 5.0 and the implications for engineers, please read our next blog.