What are Atomic Skills?


Atomic learning breaks down a particular skill step-by-step into its elementary bricks, the smallest units of knowledge that can be learned individually are atomic skills.

A skill represents the abilities and/or knowledge of an employee. A machine offers functionalities, a person has skills.

But how do we learn a skill? How do we gain the abilities or the knowledge to solve a problem? A skill is made out of many different elements which we need to learn and memorize in order to master the skill.

So, what are those different elements of a skill?

Imagine your goal is to master the skill Microsoft Excel. Then a simple example for an atomic skill would be the “IF Function”. But, of course, there are a lot more atoms than that, so where do you actually start learning? And what other atoms does the skill include?

That’s where the approach of atomic learning comes into play. It provides you with a detailed map of all atoms that are included in the skill you like to master, but also helps you navigate through it.

  • Skill ("MS Excel" or "Design Thinking")
  • (Skill) Chapter ("MS Excel Functions" or "Design Thinking Methods")
  • (Skill) Atom ("IF Function" or "How to Define a Problem")

It’s clear that these skills can hardly be broken down any further – and that’s great, because you can immediately connect it to small learning materials and provide highly personalized learning experiences! Atomic learning simplifies breaking down a skill into small atoms to guide you step by step to your learning success. The resulting skill map out of many atoms provides navigation and a direct recommendation for fitting learning material.

The advantages of Atomic Skills

  1. Actionability for specific learning and development interventions — atomic skills enable a direct connection to learning materials and deliver tailored learning content that fit to your learning goal.
  2. Lower drop out rates — breaking a Skill down to its core elements enables a detailed skill assessment. Without such a detailed skill assessment, most programs start with content you already know or start a bit too far ahead.
  3. Higher learning engagement and efficiency — tailored learning content that fits to the goals, prior knowledge, and learning style. The clients we work with today have seen a dramatic increase in learner engagement, and could help them to spend their time on average 40% more effectively (as roughly 40% of already know content is “personalized away”, making room for new and more relevant learning activities.
  4. Better integration into the daily work life — breaking a Skill down into small atoms also breaks a long learning session into shorter, more flexible and adaptable learning sessions which can be integrated in your daily work life.
  5. More motivation and engagement — the success of mastering an Atomic Skill and getting one step closer to your learning goal motivates you everyday. Instead of having a long way to go, you are able to advance one step at a time.
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edyoucated is funded by leading research institutions such as the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).

Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB)