To understand microlearning, we need to first answer what size is the right size when it comes to training. It’s becoming difficult for organizations to keep their learners engaged with traditional, bulky training be it classroom training or online learning.
We are living in the age of the smartphone. Information overload, multitasking, and the soundbite culture have led to a generation of learners with extremely short attention spans. That means traditional training on its own can’t do the job, not anymore.
As a result, many organizations are making the shift from traditional eLearning (or macro-learning) to microlearning (aka bite-sized learning) either by completely replacing their existing training or supplementing/complementing it.
Why is microlearning important for today’s learners and why should training managers care? Let’s see.
But, First, What Exactly Is Microlearning?
Microlearning delivers short, focused bites of content. Although there are no fixed guidelines regarding the duration, an ideal microlearning module is usually no more than 5-10 minutes and covers one learning objective.
The modules can be delivered in a variety of formats including:
- Quizzes and games
4 Reasons Training Managers Should Care About Microlearning
1. It Meets The Learning Needs Of The Modern/Millennial Learner
Who is the modern millennial learner? And what are their learning needs?
A sizeable portion of today’s workforce is made up of millennials, who work in non-traditional ways—virtually, on the field (remotely), and away from the desk most of the time. What complicates matters further is how distracted employees are, thanks to the constant barrage of information in the form of emails and endless notifications on their smartphones.
In an environment like this, holding a learner’s attention for long periods of time, whether in the classroom or with eLearning courses, becomes very challenging for trainers.
When you actually think about it, there’s no reason for all your training to be macro-learning assets, such as eLearning or classroom sessions. To cater to an attention-deficit, distracted workforce, deliver more digestible smaller modules where learning can happen in small doses without taking too much of the learner’s time.
2. It Caters To Both Formal And Informal Learning
Microlearning is short and focused, can be accessed on mobile devices, and can be adapted for both formal and informal learning needs. Trainers can:
- Offer a curriculum of microlearning modules connected through a seamless learning path
- Use different microlearning assets to supplement formal training efforts. For instance:
- For post-training reinforcement
- For practice and mastery
- To complement Instructor-Led Training (pre- and post-training assessments, for example)
- As a follow-up to a traditional classroom session
- Use microlearning assets as tools of performance support/Just-In-Time training for learners to access learning in their workflow.
Here are some ways you can integrate microlearning into your current training strategy:
- Use bite-sized branching scenarios to simulate situations learners need to handle at work.
- Use micro simulations to provide quasi-real experiences where learners experience the challenge, without having to deal with risks that are typically involved.
- Turn their everyday work problems into learning games with a well-written story/narrative, characters, and effective game mechanics (such as scoreboards, levels, and badges).
- Replace dull/dry product manuals with demos and videos to impart product knowledge to sales reps quickly and effectively.
- Create annual certification (microlearning) courses learners must attend every year to reinforce their knowledge.
- Invite in-house Subject Matter Experts and external industry experts to guest-host 5- or 10-minute weekly podcasts with helpful tips/anecdotes on work-related topics.
- Offer PDFs and flipbooks as handy job aids filled with great visuals and interactivities.
Note: Although you can offer microlearning in different formats, ensure that the “form always follows function” (i.e., the choice of format must justify its use and should only be used with the primary objective of effectively delivering the content).
3. Facilitates Reinforcement Of Training And Just-in-Time Support
Microlearning To Reinforce Training
Our brains are not empty vessels which one can fill with information and expect it to stay there. Most learning is forgotten by the learner within days if it is not reinforced. To help learners beat the forgetting curve and integrate learning into their long-term memory, reinforcing learning is a must.
Microlearning’s modular nature allows reinforcement of learning without forcing learners to undergo the entire training over and over again.
Here’s how it works:
- After the initial training session (whatever the format), microlearning nuggets can be used at spaced intervals to help learners remember what they learned and build upon their knowledge and skills.
- And because microlearning is mobile-friendly, courses/assets can be delivered to learners on their favorite devices, including Android smartphones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, and MS Surface tablets.
Microlearning For Just-In-Time Performance Support
Employees may often require immediate on-the-job support to complete a task at hand. This can be provided with microlearning assets providing the right information to the worker whenever and wherever they need it on the job.
Managers could also use microlearning as part of their employee coaching toolbox. When an employee is stuck and needs assistance, the manager could recommend microlearning sessions. Infographics or videos can be used as “moment-of-need” reference tools on a topic.
For instance, an infographic on the best practices of selling, a short video demo of a product, or a PDF describing sales figures of a particular region could serve as a quick performance support tool/job aid for sales reps before they meet their clients.
Microlearning is very apt for performance support because it is:
- Designed around one learning outcome/objective
- Task-based, with each module including a short explanation of how to perform a job task
4. Makes Delivering/Updating Training Content Easy And Rapid
The bite-sized learning strategy is not only advantageous for the learner but also for trainers. Given their smaller size and thanks to rapid authoring tools, Instructional Designers cannot only develop new “moment-of-need” content rapidly but also design and update microlearning assets more cost-effectively and rapidly than standard training.
With rapid authoring comes agile learning. Learners don’t have to wait weeks/months for the next training session to be updated on new products, policies, or procedures. Any updates to the training content can be made as and when needed. Once an update is made to the microlearning course, learners can be notified to complete the updated version of the training on the LMS.
Creating, updating, and delivering content at speed also makes microlearning lighter on the training budgets giving the organization a cost advantage.
Microlearning is more than just sliced-and-diced training content. It’s about providing the core information necessary to help a learner achieve a specific, actionable task. And it is probably the best choice, given the profile of the modern/millennial learner, one who wants access to personalized and timely quality content, learns as needed—anytime, anywhere—and turns to their phone in moments of need.
Download The Perfect Balance Between Microlearning And Gamification and discover more about why microlearning is vital to training managers. Also, join the webinar The Ultimate Guide To Implementing Microlearning to learn the secrets of implementing microlearning successfully.
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