Tools for knowledge are in our pockets and purses, and learning can be attained on small devices that used to take up the space of a room. What’s also become smaller? Our attention spans. Our time for learning. The material. One way to define microlearning is: strategically delivering small, bite-sized pieces of information quickly and exactly when the learners need it.
Microlearning often goes hand in hand with mobile learning. Currently Millennials are the largest user group of handheld devices in their daily lives, but Gen X and Baby Boomers are not far behind. Social media apps have taken the place of primary news sources; instead of going to a specific news site, people wait until what they're looking for shows up in their news feeds. Instead of connecting over coffee, people virtually meet up in collaborative apps. The worldwide web has taken over how we live our lives, while shrinking to fit small screens we can carry with us.
Microlearning offers clear benefits to users, both individuals and teams, while also providing a return on investment that delivers for the business as well. Because people in the field may have less time for synchronous communication (training or learning that takes place in real-time, like chats or watching instructors/webinars), microlearning means they can take advantage of the available-anytime asynchronous options where timing is not critical. They can train while parked between appointments or look up questions they have that can be answered immediately rather than waiting for a person to respond. It can be easier and less-expensive to provide for them a smartphone or tablet for their officin and training needs. The material, itself, sent in concise and clear “chunks” is easy to understand and retain.
Microlearning: Innovate, Integrate, Retrofit
Mobile learning, designed for a small screen, is an innovation that is the present and the future of eLearning and its innovation is a significant driver of microlearning. Mobile learning can be app-based or found within a browser. It can be a simple portal to an extensive resource of great breadth and depth. It can be far-reaching for a workforce that requires a nimble and untethered learning environment. Its possibilities are exciting and plentiful.
Microlearning can be a stand-alone product or it can work with other elements of your training and development program. Blending Learning is already a mixture of the right messages sent through the right channels to the right people, so microlearning integrates well with a blended learning system. When you’ve got a blended learning system, you diversify your training to include elements of video, eLearning, classroom training, performance support, and mobile learning for your modernized workforce. One example of blended learning is a “flipped classroom” scenario. In this technique, eLearning modules are sent to the learner ahead of time so the procedure or lesson is learned outside the classroom and the classroom time is spent working on activities where those lessons are directly applied. Microlearning “chunks” are a natural deliverable for the flipped classroom with learners receiving their lessons in time to study them before arriving to the “classroom” whether that be an office, patient’s room, laboratory, worksite, or other such direct application setting.
Videos and animation go hand and hand with microlearning. More than 75 percent of worldwide video viewing is on mobile devices, and as far as training is concerned, few training methods connect to a learner’s emotional response like a well-crafted video. Emotion aids in retention and sustained behavior change when it’s paired with meaningful learning. Microlearning, as it strategically delivers small pieces of information quickly and exactly when the learners need it, presents an optimal setting for video and animation for a meaningful and emotional experience. Sometimes the emotional experience is relief, even. When accessing a how-to video to get out of a jam, a worker in the field will have a positive experience upon completing the repair successfully, and likely remember more of the material for the next time it’s needed.
Have you already done the heavy lifting by developing a training program for your company, but now would like to look into using that material for a microlearning program? Wonderful! You aren’t alone. Though the technology advancements keep marching on, that doesn’t mean your material needs to get left behind. Good content can be redeveloped and retrofitted for today’s learning trends of “smaller, faster, and right when you need it.”
Opportunities for Microlearning in Your Corporation
New Employee Onboarding
Every corporation I have ever worked with has a list of corporate and industry acronyms a mile long. Until new hires have a good familiarity with these acronyms there can many opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication. If we could push these out in an integrated micro-learning format over the first few weeks at a new company, new employees may be able to get up to speed more quickly.
Integrated microlearning could making cramming for certification exams obsolete. The advantage of spaced repletion could also ensure the knowledge is firmly placed in long term memory.
We are often brought in to help clients define and train business process in their organizations. It is often difficult for users to embrace new processes when they are exposed to the process once in a classroom and then expected to follow it. When business processes are system based, microlearning could be used to prompt the user and reinforce process steps.
In every job role, there is a certain amount of fundamental knowledge. Once that fundamental knowledge is integrated into long term memory, learners have a much easier time understanding and utilizing additional information about the topic. Microlearning could be used to help learners integrate and retain that fundamental knowledge without the need for refresher training and other more time consuming interventions.
Look into microlearning. Its possibilities are endless, its potential is great. Our learners have evolved to a point where microlearning is necessary, and we need to innovate, integrate, and retrofit our L&D accordingly.