What is Microlearning & How Can It Benefit Learning

What is Microlearning & How Can It Benefit Learning

Microlearning has risen in popularity over the last few years. Many businesses and training organisations have realised its potential. Given this shift to microlearning, we’ll explore what it is, what benefits it offers, and how to implement it in your organisation.

What is Microlearning?

Employee asks manager what is microlearning

Microlearning is an educational strategy that delivers content in small, specific bursts focused on clear and concise learning objectives. While there’s no hard rule, microlearning is generally under 20 minutes in duration and focuses on a specific skill or part of a skill.

These hyper-focused short learning units can aid knowledge retention and often utilise online and mobile learning. This lends a fair amount of flexibility to microlearning when compared to traditional learning.

Traditional Learning vs. Microlearning

Traditional learning typically involves extended learning sessions, which can range from hours to weeks to even years. There are various formats available these days, with learning taking place online, in classrooms, or within a blended learning approach.

Learning delivery methods can include text books, video, hands-on learning, and more. Learning approaches differ and range from passive (lectures) to interactive (workshops). Most of the time, traditional learning involves formal assessments like exams, essays, or projects, and only takes place after lengthy periods of instruction.

Microlearning consists of short lessons delivered in just a few minutes. There’s more emphasis on specific topics but also allows larger topics to be broken up into bite-sized chunks. A great way microlearning is used in the modern workplace is to create time-efficient modules that meet immediate learning needs or skill gaps.

Delivery methods vary widely but usually include video, short courses, short text formats, or even in-person training.

There are also plenty of gamification opportunities within microlearning, with leaderboards, scoring, and other forms often being included. Assessment usually consists of continuous and real-time feedback.

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Microlearning Theory: Why Does It Work?

All humans have a limited attention span, which varies among individuals. The human brain learns well through repetition and spaced intervals. Thus, digesting a lot of information in one long session can lead to diminished retention. There are many other learning theories that explore these aspects, such as the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve and the Informational Processing Theory.

Microlearning focuses on short units or courses that allow learners to apply their full attention to the entirety of the subject material, which helps to increase information retention. By incorporating frequent practice or ‘refresher’ sessions, learners can commit knowledge to long-term memory more efficiently.

This structured focus and repetition explain why microlearning is an effective method for most people. It works well with cognitive processes that control attention and memory retention, making it a solid approach to learning that aids the retention and application of knowledge.

Main Benefits of Microlearning

Employees celebrate microlearning success

There are various benefits of microlearning. Some of these include:

  • Engaged Learners: Microlearning is easy to digest and quick to complete, increasing user engagement through frequent and attainable rewards.
  • Increase Knowledge Retention: Microlearning lets learners apply full focus to short units, aiding knowledge absorption and retention.
  • Accessible: Microlearning is highly accessible, available through various content delivery methods, including mobile phone.
  • Shorter Development Cycle: Microlearning allows you to rapidly create and adapt learning units, which consumes significantly less resources than creating traditional learning courses.
  • Cost-Effective: Microlearning units typically take less time and money to create, meaning that returns on investment can be realised quicker than with traditional learning methods.

Types and Methods of Microlearning

Microlearning comes in many forms that can be utilised in different settings such as workplace training, vocational education, and even general schooling. While you can read up about different microlearning examples, understanding the different types of microlearning will help you improve your L&D strategy:

  • Quizzes: Quizzes are a dynamic method of microlearning. They engage learners by testing knowledge with immediate feedback and detailed explanations for incorrect answers, enhancing both acquisition and retention of information.
  • Short Courses: Short courses are a staple in microlearning, allowing users to quickly gain knowledge on targeted subjects. They’re even more effective when combined with quizzes that reinforce learning at the end of modules.
  • Quickfire Videos: Quick videos offer precise, task-oriented material that’s ideal for flow-of-work learning. These brief videos can aid software adoption or clarify specific topics.
  • On-The-Job Training Modules: On-the-job training modules that are available offline can be a great way to provide accessible, bite-sized guidance to employees. Examples include on-site instructions on mounting cables or office tasks such as balancing budgets.
  • Games: Short games that last no more than 30 minutes can enrich microlearning by making it interactive and fun. Games can cover practical work-related concepts and include leaderboards and discussions that foster a culture of continuous learning.

How to Create Engaging Microlearning Experiences

Employees create microlearning experiences together

Microlearning is fairly straightforward to implement, thanks to its focused nature. Your existing staff can even create courses and videos for you. This learning material can come in various formats and cater to diverse learning styles and accessibility needs.

In a few simple steps, your organisation can benefit from microlearning.

1. Identify Training Needs and Plan

To tailor your microlearning content, first identify knowledge gaps within your learner pool with a skills audit. This step ensures that your training initiatives cater to specific needs. Once identified, you can create a training plan to address knowledge or skill gaps.

2. Create Material

Create training material, such as short courses, videos, or interactive texts, designed specifically to address skill gaps. Ensure these materials accommodate various learning preferences and requirements.

You can build courses on Microsoft PowerPoint or similar user-friendly software. However, you’ll also need to distribute this content. This can prove challenging, and that’s where a learning management system (LMS) could come in handy.

Tip: For more specific details on creating effective content, see the below ‘best-practices’ section.

3. Consider An LMS

An LMS allows you to streamline the distribution of your microlearning content. Using an LMS, you can track learner progress, manage learning objectives, and keep records of competency training and assessments.

Most modern LMS software will allow you to create and adapt learning material, quizzes and assessments right on the platform, without any need for third-party software.

Advanced LMS platforms, such as Cloud Assess, offer automation features that reduce administrative burdens and enhance the efficiency of the training process.

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Best Practices When Creating Engaging Microlearning Content

1. Reduce Fluff

Microlearning relies on brevity and relevance. Avoid including content that does not directly contribute to the learning objectives. Doing so can dilute the effectiveness and undermine the advantages of microlearning.

Keep it relevant and focused to keep learners engaged.

2. Clearly-Defined Objectives

Clearly define training objectives at the beginning of each microlearning unit. This helps learners understand exactly what to expect and focuses content on relevant skill development.

3. Offer Interactivity

Make use of interactive elements such as quizzes or puzzles to engage learners actively. A strong and compelling introduction is also crucial to capture and sustain the interest of learners.

4. Mobile-Friendly

Test your microlearning content for mobile compatibility to maintain the advantage of accessibility. Ensuring that your learning material is available on multiple kinds of devices helps to maximise learner engagement and participation.

5. Use Multimedia

Enhance training with multimedia elements such as images, videos or audio. Using multimedia in practical ways – such as illustrations of real-world scenarios or settings – can clarify complex concepts and further increase learner engagement and understanding.

6. Consider Social Learning

Make use of social learning by providing platforms for discussion, such as forums or collaborative exercises. This interaction enhances information retention and further supports the microlearning process.

Overcoming microlearning challenges illustrated by successful employees

Microlearning presents certain challenges and pitfalls that could potentially derail learning efforts. It won’t be a fit for every situation, so if you’re considering microlearning keep these things in mind.

Limited in its Focus

While microlearning’s hyper-focus on specific topics is beneficial, it presents challenges when dealing with broad or complex subjects. The concise format may restrict the depth of exploration into subtopics and related information.

One solution to this is to present microlearning modules on each of these sub-topics, but this can become confusing. In the context of highly complex and nuanced subjects, traditional learning may still be the better option.

Casual Learning

The digestible nature of microlearning might lead to learners not taking it seriously, especially if they perceive the modules as not adding significant value.

The fact that users can digest microlearning on their mobile devices while doing other things is another potential drawback, as learners who divide their attention won’t learn as effectively. This is why implementing micro assessments or quizzes is a great idea, to ensure the lessons take hold.

Missing The Big Picture

Long-term goals are often critical to business success. Microlearning tends to focus on immediate, achievable learning outcomes. This may not always align with broader, long-term goals. This misalignment can potentially undermine your larger educational or organisational objectives.

Thankfully, this is easy to overcome by creating a sensible microlearning strategy that caters to both short- and long-term goals. You can also integrate traditional learning alongside microlearning to mitigate any challenges with a hybrid approach.

Technological and Accessibility Challenges

Microlearning often relies on delivery via technology, which can also prove a challenge. All learners will need to have access to devices or the internet in order to make microlearning a success within your organisation.

The quality of microlearning also plays a role in its effectiveness. Well-designed content can keep learners engaged and ensure favourable learning outcomes.

Microlearning Software

There are various microlearning apps and platforms available. Some of these include:

  • Cloud Assess: Offers a drag-and-drop course and assessment building with various forms of multimedia available. Total flexibility means you can create and automatically distribute hyper-focused short courses with ease.
  • Learnie: A specialised microlearning tool that allows employees to create and share microlearning videos in seconds. Limited focus offers something for smaller businesses looking to wet their feet in microlearning.
  • Spekit: Spekit is a sales enablement platform with microlearning capabilities. While it caters specifically to sales teams, it offers a degree of adaptability that can fit other small teams within an organisation.

Implement Microlearning to Transform Your Business

Microlearning can be a transformative tool when properly applied. For many learners, it effectively bridges the gap between ongoing engagement and procrastination. Therefore, it’s beneficial to incorporate microlearning as an available option for both employee training and customer education.

While it can be tough to get started with microlearning, a methodical approach that sticks to best practices can help you quickly and easily implement it in your business.

Although initiating microlearning programs may seem daunting, a systematic approach that adheres to established best practices can streamline its integration into your business operations.

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