What is it?
Microlearning is a design methodology which breaks concepts down into their core ingredients for the purpose of closing specific performance gaps.
What is Microlearning? (YouTube Video)
Microlearning is just enough, just in time, just where needed, just the right format, just the right access, just big enough, just small enough. Malcolm Knowles described the perfect teachable moment at the intersection of “a small question with a great small answer”. That is at the heart of Microlearning.
Microlearning is not a brand new concept. It is also referred to as nanolearning, bite-sized, snack-size, modular, just-in-time, on-demand, learning object, shareable content object, chunking, specifically-focused topics, getting rid of the fluff, easily-consumed, brief lessons, digestible, short & sweet, short burst, concise, granular, less is more, etc.
Microlearning is short, focused, on-demand, and measurable.
Short. Microlearning is short and sweet.
- Get straight to the point. You only have a few minutes of the learner’s attention—don’t waste it on introductions! Let learners immerse themselves in the topic or activity as quickly as possible, and only use an introduction if it’s needed to set context. Maximize the amount of time you spend showing or asking learners how to do something, and minimize the amount of commentary you include.
- There’s no “right” length for microlearning. Grovo’s methodology: no lesson longer than 3 minutes, change the pace every 20-40 seconds, and aid recall by interspersing short assessments between modules. According to the blogging platform Medium, the ideal blog post takes about seven minutes to read. Longer than that, and readers start to check out.Some say microlearning must be video or that it must be less than three minutes. Strictly defining microlearning by platform or by length gets away from what’s important— the employee performance and learning experience.
Focused. Microlearning is highly focused on answering a single question, describing a single topic, or training a single skill.
- Immediate Performance. Microlearning is generally sought by employees due to an immediate need or an interest in a topic. If you were creating microlearning on the basics of boxing, you want to create one video lesson on how to throw a good right hook, and that’s it. Uppercut punches would be a separate lesson.
- Highly Contextual and Relevant. It’s about context and relevancy. We must understand the reality of the employee’s workflow and find the right times and/or locations to make learning opportunities available. It’s critical that the content and all its related activities are meaningful and relevant because all human memory is based on associations. Therefore as learning content shrinks to smaller and smaller units, learning contexts become even more critical. Just because learners could complete a module on the train or bus doesn’t mean they will.
- Stories and Scenario-Based. Stories and scenarios successfully grab an employee’s attention and achieve “instant learning”. If not relevant, the employee is not going to bother to retain it.
On-Demand. Microlearning is available to them precisely at the moment of their learning need.
- Mobile. Mobile and microlearning is practically a marriage made in heaven. This flexibility to learn on the go, anytime and anywhere, leads to greater absorption of the learning materials and hence consequently provides better outcomes.
- User Experience (UX). Designing a beautifully simple user experience is critical. Microlearning needs to be easily accessed within 2-3 clicks and designed with the latest Performance Support principles. The platform needs to ensure employees have the flexibility to only access parts of the content that is relevant to them and skip the ones they do not require. A balanced and thoughtful use of performance support platforms, videos, diagrams, infographics, mobile apps, eLearning, formal training are key to an effective user experience. Make sure you carefully design where will microlearning is housed? How it will be accessed? How learners know about it?
- A Stand Alone Offering. Microlearning fits in perfectly with ‘just in time’ learning situations. A learner can increase their knowledge and decrease their skills gap quickly and efficiently simply by engaging in a short role-specific topic-based page with critical content, video, podcast, etc. By using Microlearning, you can flip the classroom, reinforce content, and increase application in the workplace.
- Autonomous. Microlearning allows employees to learn the keys concepts on their own, then (if necessary) spend time in the formal learning solution on practice, application, and mastery of a topic. It also enables user generated content (UGC) that can be shared between employees.
Measurable. The impact of microlearning must be measured with business results. If you can’t support your learning strategy decisions by answering the question “how will we know it worked?” then what’s the point?
Business Results Focused. To prove value, microlearning design must start with the end in mind. What business problem are you trying to solve through the acquisition and application of new knowledge? What is the desired outcome? Then, align that outcome with the necessary employee behaviors. What do people have to do to reach that outcome?
- Real-Time Tracking. Microlearning is easily trackable and assessable, aiding organizations to see the impact training has on actual job performance, in real time. Did it improve individual performance? Did it improve business outcomes?
- Usage & Data Insight. What data do you seek to glean from microlearning usage? How often will you review this data? Can we convert data into insight? If microlearning is simply up and available for learners at all times, you may receive a constant stream of data that you can use to guide additional performance and learning efforts.
Microlearning provides the following significant values.
Enables Sustained Performance & Agile Learning. Microlearning fits into the employee’s workflow and supports the ongoing learning that’s naturally taking place as they perform their role. Employees can choose their own goals and learn at their own pace by only accessing only the content and modules they need. And because there is a specific need or interest, they are highly motivated to learn the information and are more likely to apply it.
Operational Efficiency & Cost Reduction. Because microlearning is modular, it is faster to design, deploy, and maintain. This makes microlearning an exceptionally cost-effective and valuable learning and performance improvement method. It’s estimated that microlearning can cut development costs by 50% while increasing the speed of development by 300%.
By no means is microlearning a silver bullet that can solve all performance and learning problems. Learning complex skills should still receive dedicated practice through classroom/virtual training, eLearning exercises, or some other means. Microlearning needs to be integrated with Performance Support and Structured training for maximum impact.