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What is Microlearning?
It’s easy to assume that microlearning simply refers to bite-sized training assets.
But microlearning means more than just small. Microlearning is not only compact—it’s also focused, offering just the right amount of information necessary to help a learner achieve a specific, actionable objective. This makes microlearning in business contexts especially valuable.
Where other forms of training often happen outside of learners’ day-to-day contexts, or are longer, making it more difficult to apply knowledge to specific on-the-job objectives, microlearning allows learners to consume training and apply new knowledge and skills quickly.
Microlearning lets learners select and use assets most applicable to their current needs on whatever device is most handy, making the training even more relevant to their work. This learner-driven nature of microlearning increases engagement, improves training and job efficiency, and builds learner interest in seeking out additional training opportunities.
Advantages of Microlearning
Microlearning solutions offer a variety of advantages. Here are a few examples:
Personalization and Autonomy
When each microlearning asset is tagged to create strong metadata, learners can easily find what they need to complete real, job-related tasks. This fosters learner autonomy, driving greater learner interest and motivation. As learners are able to personalize their training experience, they are more likely to apply knowledge on the job and seek out future training.
Microlearning supports employees accessing information when they need it most. Because assets are compact, learners are more likely to invest the time needed to use them in an on-the-job context. Further, assets developed to be compatible with a wide variety of devices allow learners to use them when and where it’s most helpful. As a result, microlearning makes it possible for learners to gain new knowledge just in time to meet their immediate needs.
Effective and Varied Learning
Microlearning lends itself to a variety of different modalities, which creates effective, richly varied training experiences for learners. Because microlearning assets are compact and focused on specific objectives, they can be easily matched to the modality (games, videos, infographics, elearning, etc.) best suited to the content. Using the best modality for specific content creates more effective training. This effectiveness and the variety of the training experiences increase learner engagement.
Advantageous for Trainers
Microlearning offers key advantages for trainers and learning and development departments. Given their small size, microlearning assets can be easier and more affordable to produce and to maintain. Further they are easily used for a variety of purposes: as components of larger training initiatives, as performance support, as communication tools, and more.
Overcoming Possible Pitfalls of Microlearning
While microlearning offers distinct advantages, pursuing a training strategy that relies heavily on microlearning may introduce pitfalls. Because microlearning results in many small training pieces, it’s easy to develop training that leaves learners feeling like they are missing the big picture or that creates an inconsistent experience across training assets. Best practices that will help avoid these pitfalls include:
- Build connections between the various microlearning assets
- Build connections between microlearning assets and deep-dive training assets
- Define clear standards that create consistent branding to guide microlearning development
- Strategically use key words, images, and principles across microlearning assets
- Identify related training at the end of a microlearning asset
By creating connections between your training assets, establishing clear standards for both look and feel and user experience, and using metadata to help learners find related training resources, you’ll create a cohesive, consistent experience that helps learners understand the bigger picture.
When to Use Microlearning
When deciding whether to use microlearning strategies, it’s important to consider both your business needs and the needs of your learner. In order to determine when it’s appropriate to use microlearning, consider the following:
What kind of content will you include in the training?
Actionable content that can be broken into small pieces lends itself well to using microlearning strategies. However, abstract or complex content which may be more difficult for learners to grasp may need a blended solution. Such solutions use longer format training to develop foundational knowledge, while deploying microlearning pieces for targeted, actionable content.
What technology will you use to make your training available?
Not all learning management systems manage microlearning well. Microlearning’s effectiveness depends in part on ease of access. If a learner can’t quickly find what they’re looking for and consume it right when they need it, it’s less likely that they’ll put the effort in to access and use short training pieces. To best deploy microlearning assets, your learning management system should be easily searchable and provide excellent tagging so that learners can find what they need. And, if possible, having the capacity to share microlearning assets through social networking capacity will increase use and success of microlearning assets.
Who are your learners?
When choosing a training strategy, it’s important to start with your learners’ needs and contexts in mind. While microlearning can be a highly effective strategy across all generations, younger learners or learners who are more technologically savvy may be more comfortable using microlearning assets than those who use digital devices less frequently. Further, web-based microlearning depends on learners having web-enabled devices readily available while they work, since this training works best when consumed in an on-the-job setting.
Microlearning can be a great way to keep your training fresh, accessible, and relevant. Need help deciding if microlearning is right for you? Contact our consultants today.