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What is Microlearning and Why Your Company Needs It

Ever turn to YouTube for a “how-to” video only to fast forward through 90 percent of it? Or turn on your favorite pre-taped show and skip the commercials? Or how about asking Alexa a quick question versus scoring Google for an answer?

Today we want information fast and more than fast that gets to the point quickly. The same is true with learning on the job. That’s where microlearning can help.

If you aren’t familiar with microlearning, it’s breaking down content into short snippets of digestible information. In addition, these small learning modules are available on demand anytime and anywhere.

5 Ultimate Benefits of Microlearning

So why use microlearning? How is it helpful to corporate learners? Here are some benefits for incorporating it into your training program.

1. Keeps attention

Attention spans are low and even lower these days due to all the technology taking place around us. So if you want your employees to stay focused in a sea of daily distraction, 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. Retention increases

The longer and more robust a course is the less 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

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

Employees today want 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.

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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.

1. Self-assessments

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 which 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 gage learning progress. 

2. Performance evaluations

Regular performance evaluations need to happen throughout the lifecycle of an employee’s tenure. They gage 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. 

4. Infographics

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. 

6. Videos

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. 

8. Webinars

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. 

9. Blogs

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 a learning management system or an 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 aobt 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. 

Be creative

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.

Very 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. Like we mentioned before you can incorporate things like video, social media and webinars to keep material interesting.

Ask questions throughout the content

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.

Build-in rewards

Too often training is an after-thought or some training like compliance may be montonensous to employees. A way to counteract this is through rewards. You could give employees badges for microlearning 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 co-workers builds excitement. 

Pair 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 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, employees are busier than ever. Microlearning is a great way to get information to employees in a short timetable that fits their work days. Plus, whether they are in the office, traveling for work or are work-from-home contractors, if offers training flexibility. And because 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 impact. So incorporate a few of these ideas to start reaping the benefits of microlearning today.

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