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Microlearning: big benefits to be had from going small

The way we learn and train in the workplace is very different today to how it used to be. Not so very long ago, the norm was to bring all learners together into one place for face-to-face training with an instructor. Now, people are more likely to learn separately, often at different times, quite often digitally and on a variety of devices. Into this environment steps microlearning, where small, bite-sized chunks of learning are undertaken in support of learning and development (L&D) for time-strapped employees.

 

Time is a precious commodity in the workplace. Training can get pushed to the bottom of the list when there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. In fact, according to Bersin by Deloitte, employees are able to devote only one per cent of a typical work week to training and development. Microlearning can be a useful way for these time-poor employees to top-up or refresh previous learning or to take on new information to help them perform current or future duties.

 

Microlearning meets 3 learning needs

 

We’ve all been there. A half-day workshop that’s been in the diary for a while comes around at just the wrong time. With other priorities nagging at the conscience, it’s difficult to concentrate on and feel engaged in the learning. Later – perhaps a few months down the line –  the training is particularly relevant to what you need to do but the learning isn’t fresh in the mind and recall isn’t great.

 

Microlearning delivers learning content in small focused learning ‘bursts’. It’s ideally placed to meet an immediate need for information, to answer a specific question, or to fill some spare time when the learner is motivated and wanting to learn.

 

To be effective, each microlearning ‘nugget’ must be highly focused on a specific learning outcome and it should be possible to determine that this outcome has been achieved.

 

Microlearning makes good use of the way we tend to learn today. In contrast to formal, scheduled training where significant chunks of time have to be put aside, enterprise learning today is generally a more informal affair. It is increasingly digital, mobile and makes use of rich media formats including video to engage today’s learners.

 

Learning for a digital age

 

These learners are increasingly familiar with the short-form information they consume and exchange day-to-day. These include tweets, posts on social media platforms, graphics and short videos. Arguably, our attention span is geared towards such focused information exchange.

 

From a learning perspective, information retention and recall is aided when information is limited to a few, clearly expressed points and when it is presented in a memorable way. In many situations, visual communication forms are ideal and in this, technology-based learning and microlearning is well placed to help course administrators deliver engaging courses that will maximise learner recall.

 

To incorporate microlearning into your own learning programmes, look at course structure and determine how content can be broken down into distinct, standalone learning segments. Be very clear on the specific learning objective and desired outcome for each learning segment and how the outcome/s will be measured. Think about the situations within which learners will consume the content and ensure the way it’s delivered matches those situations. In many cases, learners access content from smart devices; they may catch-up on training on their mobile while they’re on a train; they might switch devices during training and want to have the same experience. Lastly, get creative in the formats you use for your learning content – make use of video and learner interaction to engage course takers and aid information recall.

 

On-demand microlearning can be an effective way of meeting learner requirements for quick, accessible and engaging learning content. It can fit into tight schedules and present information in an easy-to-understand way. For today’s time-poor, digitally savvy employees, it can be an effective tool in the L&D kitbag.

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