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Microlearning—Prioritization at Its Best

I’m pretty sure I’ve learned to how to use the same tool in Photoshop at least 4 times. I’m usually not a slow learner—and I have fairly good long-term recall. But I have developed a compartment in my brain of “things I need to know right this second but can forget the next because I can just learn them again online.” It’s true. I’m ashamed to admit it (well, not really, but I feel like I should be), and this tool in Photoshop seems to have found its way in there.

This feeling of prioritization stems less from the fact that I’m a working mom with three kids and a life outside of my career (though that’s probably reason enough) and more from the fact that if I know where to find something that’s “half the battle,” as it were. I feel like I can be competent just knowing how to get to it. I’m not alone in this—in fact, the rise of DIYers, YouTube, and Pinterest are all proof that I’m among millions of friends.

So, how does this work in the learning environment? At your job? In your cubicle? It works really well, actually. Small, short, targeted pieces of training are part of the trend called microlearning, and they’re created for people just like me. They are pieces that are either available all the time as stand-alones or serve as supplementary introductions, enhancements, or refreshers for larger curricula. As you can imagine, this means there is a huge application of microlearning pieces in corporate learning.

As I talk with clients every day as a training consultant, I usually bring up a few things key things we need to ensure as we approach their design:

  1. That the learner experience is a good one.
  2. That we separate the need-to-know information from the nice-to-know, but provide learners easy access to the nice-to-know when they need it. (Don’t try to read that one out loud. It’s a mouthful.)
  3. That learning is a pathway, not a one-time event.

Microlearning can come into play for all three of these. For example, if you want your learners to have a good experience, give them assets they can use that don’t use too much time, are relevant, accessible, brief, and actionable. Nice-to-know info only? Provide them a focused resource library of small assets. Pathway? Preview the event with microlearning bursts in a flipped-classroom model. Or provide them refresher pieces after the training event is complete to solidify the information and ensure application.

When our clients already understand the criticality of microlearning in today’s know-where-to-find-it world, we discuss a few more things about the microlearning approach:

    1. Is it right for your content?
      In other words, is your content actionable or—to use Michael Noble’s word in his latest blog—chunkable? Or is it major, heavy, or somewhat abstract baseline content? If it’s the latter, maybe steer clear of microlearning for a moment until that baseline is established.
    1. Will it resonate with your learners?
      Are you choosing microlearning types of assets that they will appreciate and know how to use? If your learners are used to using apps and electronic feedback, then microlearn away online. If they’re used to long sessions in the classroom, maybe start with baby steps such as job aids, posters, wizards, action plans, and resource toolkits.
  1. Will it work with your LMS?
    Sadly, not all learning management systems (or portals, for that matter) are created equal. When our clients come to us to create games and track all their learners’ scores, etc., we have to ask if their LMS can handle what we/they have in mind. Many LMS providers are catching up with technology; just make sure you have one that has.

When you have replied with a resounding “yes” to each of these three questions, you’re ready for microlearning. We’d love to help you figure out to make microlearning work for you. We can even commiserate over our Photoshop relearning moments if you have time. Let us know how you use microlearning at work or home!