Today we want information that's fast and gets to the point quickly. The same is true with learning on the job. That’s where microlearning can help.
Especially when it comes to employee learning and development. Most businesses can't afford to have their employees in boring, all-day, on or offsite training programs that might not engage them enough to retain information.
That's why it's efficient (and effective) to cut your training down into bite-sized learning sessions.
What is microlearning?
Microlearning is a form of breaking up critical training or learning content into smaller, shortened lessons. It provides learners with a quick and easy way to learn new skills or information that are directly job-related in a short period of time.
Benefits of microlearning for your organization
So why use microlearning? How is it helpful to corporate learners? Here are some benefits of incorporating it into your training program.
1. Keeps attention
Attention spans are lower than ever. If you want your teams to stay focused in a sea of daily distractions, microlearning can help. It allows you to use a single learning objective that takes a fraction of the time than for a full course on the same topic.
That way employees are engaged for the five to 10 minutes it takes to learn, truly absorb the course material, and don’t feel overwhelmed by the material.
2. Increases retention
The longer and more robust a course is the fewer learners pay attention. And when employees begin to zone out, they lose what’s being taught quickly. And when they are asked to recall what they learned on the job, they can’t remember. So the learning becomes obsolete.
Instead, microlearning takes small snippets of information spaced out into different learning modules. That way learners can quickly understand new concepts and recall these once needed.
3. Get up to speed quickly
Scheduling a long in-person training course or several eLearning modules on a new initiative is time-consuming. However, if you are rolling out a new product line you need your sales staff to quickly understand the key features. So using microlearning is a great way to get everyone up to speed quickly.
4. Faster feedback
Measures engagement and satisfaction methods faster
If you are offering new training sessions on a certain topic, you want to know how the training is going. Is it effective? Are employees finding it useful? And how fast are employees taking the courses? With microlearning, this feedback is a lot quicker. And if you need to make training tweaks, you’ll have the results needed to do this. That way you can make your training more impactful in a shorter amount of time.
5. Available on all platforms
Workers today demand flexibility. Some days they may be working from home or other days traveling to a client meeting. Microlearning works well whether in the office on your desktop computer or on your phone or on a laptop away from the office. It offers an easy way to train no matter where your employees are or what technology platform they are using.
9 Ways to Use Microlearning for Training Purposes
There are several training exercises that work well within the microlearning framework. Here are some types of learning activities and how you can strengthen each one with microlearning.
Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint what training an employee needs. What a manager views as valuable and what an employee thinks is beneficial may be different. That’s why you can create learning self-assessments using microlearning. These can be short quizzes that identify which skills are needed for a job and where an employee falls within each one. This will help the employee and manager identify gaps that need to be focused on. And since these are quick, these assessments can be taken at regular intervals to gauge learning progress.
2. Performance evaluations
Regular performance evaluations need to happen throughout the lifecycle of an employee’s tenure. They gauge how well they are performing on the job and also raise flags of where additional training should be added. A good way to evaluate using microlearning is through simulations. Have an employee perform a quick simulation exercise and then provide an immediate performance evaluation of that simulation. This is a good alternative to a traditional performance evaluation and can be targeted to specific skills.
3. Gamification in training
If you aren’t familiar, gamification in training is the process of applying gaming designs and concepts to learning or training sessions in order to make them more engaging and entertaining for your employees. This learning method is a good one for microlearning. Games are fun and keep employees’ attention. So by using these to train, information is better absorbed and can be done in quick intervals.
Infographics are used all the time in news or blog articles to visually explain a key concept. This same principle can apply to microlearning. Create infographics for key procedures like customer service call scripts, compliance procedures and other organizational protocols. It will give employees a quick overview of the topic and key takeaway points. Plus, if you make these downloadable through your learning management system these can be printed off and act as a takeaway for employees. Plus everyone learns in a different way so this is a great tool for visual learners.
5. Branching scenarios
Branching scenarios are a lot like those books you read in childhood where you could pick your own ending of an adventure. So in learning they challenge the learner to make a choice and then present the consequences of that decision. Each consequence leads to new challenges and further choices. When you apply this philosophy to microlearning it can be used to test employee reactions on the spot. For example, you are met with an irate employee, what do you say to diffuse the situation quickly.
Since we use multimedia in our personal lives daily, it’s a great idea to also use it when learning. Creating quick instructional videos is a great way to incorporate microlearning. These could be on topics like learning a new product design or compliance or safety protocols. The videos can these be categorized within your learning management system by topic or by department.
7. Social media
Social media we use in our daily lives so a great way to incorporate it into our business lives is through microlearning. You can create a private Facebook group for your company that shares short videos, webinars or news clips on relatable topics. Or you use it as a chat function letting team members ask questions and get answers from one another. If you have a larger company you can further break these groups down by department or team. Either way, this offers helpful peer-to-peer learning for the organization as a whole.
Webinars are an easy way to get information in short sessions. Create a few webinars on key skills to be learned or even as follow up information on large scale events like new product launches. These can be as short as 15 minutes focusing on a key point. If the training topic is fairly robust, you can always link to additional training modules whether online or in person.
Microlearning can be in the form of a story like a news article. You can create short information snippets that are rolled out weekly. These could be “topics to think about for the week.” They could be posted on Mondays and prompted by a few reading comprehension questions to think about once the learners read the blog. Then you can elicit a group discussion feedback at week-end based on everyone’s thoughts. It can act like a learning book club.
Best Practices for Microlearning
Now that you know some of the ways to use microlearning, let’s discuss some best practices to ensure the best delivery. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when developing your program.
Design for microlearning
If you already have a fairly robust library of training courses, don’t just take some of those courses and cut them down for microlearning. While you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you do need to design for microlearning. Think of the key points you wish to make within your module and focus on one or two high-level points. Trying to fit too much into a session is counterproductive and will overwhelm the learner.
Take an agile approach
Whether you use an online learning platform or corporate intranet to house your training materials, chances are you have built-in metrics to capture what’s working and what’s not. Since microlearning is new for your organization and happens in a much quicker timeframe, take advantage of this. Collect data on what’s working and what’s not and adopt an agile outlook. Make tweaks often based on your feedback. This will only strengthen your program.
Design for mobile
Mobile or mLearning is becoming more prevalent. We are on our phones from the moment we wake up checking emails to the moment we go to bed and set our phone alarm. So take advantage of this when designing your microlearning. You want to make sure employees can download and access these training sessions on the go. Sessions need to be designed to fit a mobile platform and work across iOS and Android platforms seamlessly.
Employing microlearning doesn’t need to be a daunting task. You don’t have to spend hours redesigning your courses. Look at the courses you offer, identify the key points and develop a short lesson around these objectives. For example, create short videos, develop a five-question quiz or select a few relevant news clips that can inform employees more on an important topic. In other words, use the same messages in longer training modules, but just deliver them in a creative way.
Vary your content
Since they are quick on-the-go learning modules, you want to keep your employee’s interest. Plus, because of the little time they take, learners most likely will take a few before logging on. So you want to vary the content you use. As we mentioned before you can incorporate things like video, social media and webinars to keep material interesting.
Ask questions throughout the content
The typical learning format is to deliver the information and then ask questions at the end. But since microlearning is learning condensed, your format should ask questions throughout the training. For example, if you have a training season on customer service best practices you could give real-life customer scenarios and ask what an employee would do in each session. Then based on their answer, you could give additional feedback through a short video response to show why the correct answer makes the most sense.
Too often training is an afterthought or some training like compliance may be monotonous to employees. A way to counteract this is through rewards. You could give employees badges for microlearning lessons completed or have an online leaderboard if you are using gaming in your training. This will provide motivation to not only take the training but be fully engaged throughout. And a little healthy competition between coworkers builds excitement.
Pare it down
Remember less is more when creating microlearning. Don’t try and cram too much material in a short amount of time. Aim to make one or two points and eliminate information overload. This is the same for visuals. Too many graphics or videos can overwhelm the learner and distract from the key takeaways. You also need to remember that microlearning happens usually on-the-go meaning on a mobile phone. And a phone screen size is a lot smaller than a desktop or laptop computer.
Where does microlearning fit within your organization?
Whether you have an eLearning, in-classroom, or blended learning environment, teams are busier than ever. Microlearning is a great way to get information to teams in a short timetable that fits their work days. Plus, whether they are in the office, traveling, or working from home, it offers training flexibility. And since training seasons are short, it’s easy to transition some of your existing training material into this platform with little effort, but with a lot of impacts. Incorporate a few of these ideas to start reaping the benefits of microlearning today.