Posted on 19th May, 2017 by Louise Lee
This article from learning designer Louise Lee explains what microlearning is and looks at some of the many benefits of microlearning, including saving time and mobile-friendly learning.
The modern learner has just 24 minutes a week to spend on training and development according to research by Deloitte. This is one of the reasons why companies are increasingly looking at microlearning as a way to maximize learning in a minimum amount of time.
Here are six benefits of microlearning you may not know about. But before that, let’s take a quick look at what microlearning actually is.
What is Microlearning?
Microlearning is a short, concise nugget of learning, often three to five minutes long, that focuses on a specific outcome in a single topic. Microlearning is usually delivered in multi-media formats and is primarily a ‘pull’, or learner-driven (as opposed to instructor-led training), method. It’s easy to see why targeted topics that take five minutes or less to complete on your mobile device while waiting for the bus or train home are favored by people who are perpetually short of time.
Designing short bursts of microlearning that are mobile-friendly (also known as mlearning) gives organizations and learning designers the opportunity to pare back material and organize it into self-contained ‘bites’ of knowledge that the learner can easily consume on the go.
We don’t need to re-invent the wheel to create an engaging microlearning course—many of the existing learning tools we use are ideal. For example, eLearning games and simulations, quizzes and factsheets are easy to fit into shorter, more impactful learning environments. Any kind of image-based learning, such as an infographic, is a fast way to impart meaning in microlearning. Having a ‘playlist’ of short eLearning videos that the learner can watch whenever they choose delivers learning in a familiar medium and offers the learner an autonomous training experience.
From the learner perspective, what’s not to like?
Shorter Microlearning Courses Offer Depth
When it comes to building courses, we do need to make sure that short eLearning doesn’t mean superficial. Topics must have a logical flow, as well as the depth and power to create behavioral change. We can still train on complex topics using a microlearning approach because it reduces cognitive overload and materials can be used to build up complex topics piece by piece in an episodic way.
You might assume that this approach has been designed specifically for Millennials or any other learner with information overload and a shorter attention span. But it may be closer to the truth to say that Millennials have taught us the value of scanning through extraneous information to get to the real point quickly, while multi-tasking across devices.
In this context, microlearning is about pulling specific ‘just-in-time’ information that meets a need the learner needs to know in the moment, thus enabling people to develop work-based skills faster than ever before. The beauty of multi-device learning means that, thanks to smartphones and tablets, short topics can be accessed on any device and applied instantly.
Now let’s look at those 6 benefits of microlearning.
Benefits of Microlearning #1: It’s Time Well Spent
With microlearning, there’s no need to search through piles of information to get to the info you need. Quick, simple messages or programs that need repetition of the learning work well with this approach. There is a huge opportunity to personalize and update or add to microlearning programs too, creating a miniature learning library that can be referenced at any time.
Benefits of Microlearning #2: It Fills the Gap
Imagine the value of being able to access a five-minute ‘key benefits’ refresher course for a new service launch, a month after your face-to-face training that equips you to go into a meeting ten minutes later and nail the contract? Training is pulled at the moment of need, potentially boosting confidence in the usefulness of eLearning, rather than approaching it as a chore to be endured.
Benefits of Microlearning #3: It’s Easy to Update
If you’ve invested in the right kind of eLearning authoring tool, updates to the courses can take anything from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes.
Benefits of Microlearning #4: It’s Mobile Friendly
Microlearning is perfect for filling in those short gaps that people have during the day—whether it’s waiting for your desktop to apply system updates or a lull on the shop floor, sparing a few minutes to do some quick learning on your smartphone could be a welcome change in the daily routine. The five minutes we get here and there in our working days amount to dedicated learning that, when added up over time, we hardly notice, while almost effortlessly increasing completion rates. Being able to access mobile learning while on the daily commute to and from work is a popular way in which many people use their downtime to continue learning.
Benefits of Microlearning #5: It Provides Increased Retention Rates
Studies have shown that adults learn and retain information better when it’s given to them in short bursts. Microlearning allows people to associate, recall and focus on a certain group or point of information. For example, a quick review of a specific soft skill might boost confidence and allow for better communication during a meeting.
Benefits of Microlearning #6: It’s Shareable
A short burst of effective learning may be just the kind of thing that people want to share with their colleagues. You might share a factsheet or a video showing a process or technique because it won’t take long for your colleagues to consume and it could be incredibly useful. Engaging microlearning courses can encourage the kind of company-wide sharing and discussion that L&D departments dream of.