Microlearning can be an important component of any modern e-learning initiative, but it's important to approach it the right way.
Microlearning rests on German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus' forgetting curve, which holds that when people learn large amounts of information, they quickly lose it. Microlearning is a way to combat that forgetting. Its popularity is growing rapidly.
Benefits of microlearning
Microlearning is a training method that focuses on delivering small, frequent chunks of information.
In the business world, these bite-sized lessons can run just two to three minutes in length, in contrast to traditional corporate e-learning courses that typically last 30 minutes or more. Microlearning also tends to be problem-driven, meaning the instruction helps an employee complete a task or do the particular job they're working on. Microlearning can also benefit employees who only require a refresher on a particular topic or need to build quick skills.
Microlearning course formats range from videos to voice recordings to articles.
Here are just a few of benefits of microlearning:
- It's modeled on modern life, so it feels familiar. People are used to having a question or problem and looking up the answer. Most microlearning initiatives use a similar approach.
- Employees are most likely to be engaged with the learning content when that content answers a need or job-based problem.
- Microlearning is a learning-in-the-flow-of-work approach so it more seamlessly works with employee schedules.
- Employees are likely to retain information longer, because they have to remember smaller chunks of information.
- It can help the organization by helping employees apply their skills on the job and by boosting engagement.
- It can contribute to employee experience and a positive organizational culture, particularly if employees contribute to the learning.
Organizations can use microlearning approaches for virtually every subject. A few examples include onboarding, product training and sales training. Courses that are usually taught over longer periods of time, such as compliance training, could benefit from a microlearning approach because learners may find it easier to digest the topics. Microlearning can also be a good fit for particularly challenging material because topics are divided into smaller chunks than in traditional e-learning.
Strategies to boost microlearning success
Here are 10 microlearning strategies for learning and development (L&D) teams to employ when incorporating the concept into an organization's corporate training strategy.
Use the right learning platform
L&D or IT leaders will need to decide which software best manages their microlearning. Whether the organization uses a learning management system, a learning experience platform or a microlearning platform, the L&D team will need software to host the content, control approvals, share the content with employees and track completion. Leaders also need to consider the various tools training contributors can use.
Ask employees to develop microlearning content
Employees are closest to the daily demands of their roles' requirements and can use that firsthand knowledge to become important training resources. They can easily record instructional videos on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop, then share that content on a learning platform. For example, a property manager may be very adept at fixing clogged drains. The manager could record a short video on this topic for the property company's trainees.
Establish guidelines and an approval process
L&D leaders and other stakeholders need to develop guidance for microlearning content development. This is a set of guidelines that will help the learning team decide when to use microlearning versus more in-depth e-learning courses, as well as how content should be developed. The guidelines will help ensure consistency in digital training. As part of this, leaders should create an approval process that governs what employees can share. This will help ensure content developers -- including contributing employees -- share only accurate information that upholds and aligns with organizational standards.
Tell employees to focus on learning what they need
Since microlearning is served in small chunks, employees can focus on the topics they need to learn and skip others. For example, if a worker has a question about a particular Microsoft Excel function, they can take the microlearning module on that specific topic rather than a full-length Microsoft Excel course that covers all Excel features. L&D teams can urge employees to learn what is most useful for them.
Gamify the learning
As with all training, microlearning will likely be more popular if it's gamified. Award points for completed courses or create a leaderboard to display point accumulation. Making microlearning a friendly competition often leads to increased participation, which in turn leads to more learning. Employees who submit microlearning content could receive points as well.
Find out if the learning system includes AI and, if so, make it part of the microlearning process. AI can suggest next steps for employee microlearning based on data like employee interest in a topic or a needed redo if an employee performed poorly. This helps enable continuous learning in the workplace.
Make the course mobile-friendly
The microlearning content should work on any device, including mobile phones, laptops and tablets, so employees can view it in any location. If a company employs remote employees or workers who are often in the field, mobile-friendly microlearning content is a must.
Measure employee performance
As with any initiative, measuring and analyzing employee data for microlearning is crucial. Important data points include employee course completion rate, the length of time employees take to complete a course and employee course share rate.
Mix and match training types
Microlearning doesn't need to be the only approach. Employees could begin with a more traditional e-learning or instructor-led course, then move on to a microlearning module that reinforces new skills or delves further into a particular topic.
Use microlearning to identify topics of interest
A microlearning course can test interest in a particular topic and requires less work to develop. If the microlearning course data indicates employees are interested in the topic, a longer course may be a good next step.
About the author
Eric St-Jean is an independent consultant with a focus on HR technology, project management and Microsoft Excel training and automation. Eric worked in high-tech for over 14 years before transitioning to HR, where he focuses on implementing and managing HCM systems.