A memory: I’m 16 years old. My father is demonstrating how to change a tire. “Are you watching me?” he asks. “Yeah, Dad,” I say, programming the number for AAA into my cell phone.
Fast-forward to a decade later: I am on a vertiginous mountain road. It’s 11 p.m., in the middle of a hailstorm. The fog is so thick that I don’t see the sharp piece of metal in the road and puncture my tire in a place where there’s no cell phone reception.
My friend and I are dressed for a summer hike, but the temperature is dropping fast. It’s so cold that I’m shivering violently, and, although my friend suggests that I wait in the car while he changes the tire, I want to watch him, because for the first time in my life, I am ready to learn this skill.
The next day, my friend helps me replace the spare donut with a new tire. Then I practice my new skill by rotating my tires just for the fun it.
Today: I’m such an expert at changing tires that if I didn’t love instructional design so much, I could probably have a second career as a tire thief. But to acquire this new skill, I went through all three stages of the learner lifecycle: readiness (or for me, fear of freezing to death in the mountains), discovery (watching my friend demonstrate how to change a tire while pretending that we’re not about to be the victims in a slasher film), and reinforcement (practicing on my own through recreational tire rotation).
To design optimal training, we need to think of our learners, and what’s right for them in the moment. Which stage is your learner at in their learning lifecycle? Do they need more motivation? More knowledge? Tools to perform their job? The most comprehensive learning solution doesn’t mean the longest training—it means the right type of training at the right time.
Here are six ways microlearning can help learners prepare for their training, digest the training, or execute new skills and behaviors post-training.
1. For the readiness phase, motivational videos that resonate with your learner can increase their receptiveness to a new training program. For example, when launching a new company-wide voluntary training curriculum, Domino’s created a motivational intro video to ensure success. The video helped employees understand why the training was important, as well as showed franchisees that the voluntary training would be a good investment of their time.
2. Infographics can set the stage for training because they are able to show a lot of information in a concise way. A major U.S. convenience store chain prepared learners for customer service and sales training by providing employees with an interactive infographic of the store. The infographic pointed out opportunities for customer interaction in the different store areas, which helped learners remember key points as they went through the entire curriculum.
3. During the discovery stage, video interviews with company or industry influencers are an effective modality for empowering employees and driving change across an organization. For example, Quiet Leadership Institute created a training that would empower all employees and drive productivity across an organization. As they helped people discover their strengths and how to use them, they leveraged the reputation and expertise of Quiet Revolution co-founder Susan Cain, as well as other productivity and neuroscience experts in video interviews to teach key concepts.
4. How-to demos provide contextualized, concrete steps to execute new behaviors and skills. After an accident injured an employee, a national contractor redesigned and strengthened their safety training. Included in the curriculum were several how-to video demos that had interactive elements. These videos not only demonstrated best practices for ensuring safety while on the job, but tasked learners with identifying potential hazards.
5. To reinforce critical knowledge and skills, job aids can help distill vital information from complex concepts and processes. For example, A global manufacturer of security products created a dual-use micro asset for their sales team. Although the team members learned the product lines during training, the company knew navigating the many possible solutions to client needs could be complex, especially for new employees. So they created a job aid to be used on the iPads all sales people carried. It could be used as a refresher before a sales meeting, or shown to a potential client in the meeting if they wanted to navigate the different options with the salesperson.
6. Reference tools provide ways for learners to quickly remember key pieces of training. To provide ways to refresh learners’ memories after a day-long instructor-led training, an international medical manufacturer created multiple reference tools in the form of quizzes, interactive videos, and ebooks.
For a comprehensive multimodal training curriculum, microlearning can help you meet your learners exactly where they’re at in their journey. For quick training that drives long-term results, a granular approach can ensure that you learners can access what they need when they need it.