What is Microlearning?

Microlearning generally involves dissecting learning into “microscopic” learning bursts (typically 2-10 minutes each). Supporters say microlearning matches human brain processing capabilities, combating learner boredom, disengagement, and poor retention.

Online training is well-suited to delivering microlearning, because it is easily spliced with web technologies, can be deployed on multiple devices, and can be pushed down to or pulled down by users. Using an LMS to manage your online training enables data-gathering and the ability to roll up microcontent into large concepts.

scientist and microscopeWhy Use Microlearning Techniques?

Microlearning adds dimension to training and can create a positive learning subculture.

Knowledge sharing via microlearning focuses on daily routines and tasks—where the real work happens. Day-to-day proficiency leads to workplace efficiency and pride in workmanship.

Traditional teaching methods are instructor-led. Outside trainers often only facilitate general concepts. Microlearning allows in-house subject matter experts to rise up, and training becomes learner-led.

Microlearning is hands on. Asking questions via microblogging and collaboration tools helps us to quickly reach the person with the answer or leverage the crowd for collaborative idea-generation.

Designing training programs can be overwhelming—mentally and financially. Designing training in short bursts allows you to pilot short lessons, gather feedback, iterate, and plan the next training slice. LMS’ help by tracking participation, engagement, and feedback so you can create data-driven learning.

How Can You Effectively Integrate Microlearning into Online Training?

How can you splice your online training content into two- to ten-minute learning segments? Boil down your learning concepts into the most basic element(s). Then create one engaging learning object for each residual microlearning element.

Here’s a partial list of “engaging learning objects” well-suited to both microlearning and online training:

  • Games:  Learning disguised as games is fun. Take learning to the next level by making the game social—learners can post scores, earn certificates, team up, and keep playing for deeper understanding.
  • Quizzes:  Test your learners’ comprehension. Or divide learners into subgroups and challenge them to create collaborative social quizzes to test each other.
  • Business simulations and case studies:  Create real-life stories related to business issues. Ask learners to collaborate, post solutions, and discuss.
  • Podcasts and videos:  Ask your experts (internal, external, or both) to create on-demand content to share.
  • Blog posts and articles:  Encourage learners to create articles that teach how to do something, answer FAQs, or tell stories about lessons learned. Sharing builds organizational trust and collaboration.
  • Slideshows:  Encourage learners to create and share visual slides (with or without narration, preferably with minimal text) that take concepts to the next level.

Micro-blogging through social networks like Yammer can extend the conversation and make learning real. Micro-blogging can build relationships and communities, bridge distances, smash silos, deliver status, share news and increase personal influence.

What Does Microlearning Look Like?

YouTube, TED, and Khan Academy are often touted as successful examples of microlearning.

When using YouTube as a microlearning model, evaluate the length of videos you watch. Your answer should give you a clue to ideal microlearning unit length. But, YouTube’s microlearning avenues are limited to video, sharing, and discussion—unless you open up possibilities by embedding video in your training.

TED Talks are likewise share-able. But, what happens after the Talk? Critics claim that TED Talks are “just talk”. Viewers are left solo to take the concepts discussed and “spread the idea”. Standalone TED Talks are more like traditional classes rather than a microlearning technique—again, unless you embed a Talk into your training and create a microlearning instance yourself.

Khan Academy takes the most advantage of microlearning techniques. Salman Khan introduces a concept through video (teaching). Microlearning occurs through games, quizzes, and discussions. Students earn badges, track progress, and receive instant feedback. Coaches (tutors, teachers, and parents) are informed of student progress. Everyone involved in the learning chain can gather data and insight into whether learning is happening, and make instantaneous course adjustments.

Is Microlearning the Ultimate Answer?

Perhaps.

No one instructional technique is the answer to any one learning need. Usually, a blended teaching method is necessary. But, microlearning techniques should be considered in the mix.

Microlearning alone could be harmful to those who become overly dependent on fragmented learning, as it doesn’t lend itself to big picture thinking when used as a standalone methodology. Will microlearning alone cause learners to miss contextual queues in the macro environment? Possibly.

When we include microlearning in our online training, we hope that it leads to macrosynthesis. Don’t hope. Make it happen. Blend your online training with post-training microlearning bursts. Follow up with meetups, social collaboration, or further online training to re-synthesize concepts at the macro level. Merge synchronous and asynchronous training methods to create a knowledgeable, engaged workforce.

Have you incorporated microlearning techniques into your online training? Please share your feedback on why, how, and what your microlearning looked like.

Gauri Reyes confesses a penchant for “macrolearning”, but is a convert to the idea that microlearning has a deeply rooted place in today’s societal needs. She is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. Gauri is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

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