A college graduate is preparing for the GRE prior to applying to graduate schools. She downloads the app Memrise, where she finds courses like "Barron's Essential GRE Words." A guitarist forgets the tabs to a song. He searches for the Ultimate Guitar Tabs website and watches a video walk-through of the chord progressions. A finance professional has to make an unfamiliar transaction type. He clicks into his company's learning portal and finds an eLearning module on that very transaction. Your garbage disposal backs up into the sink. On google, you find a step-by-step guide to trouble shooting.
These are all examples of microlearning.
Microlearning is really just what it sounds like – learning, or reinforcing learning, in very small chunks available to the learner at the moment of need.
In a study by Gerhard Gassler, Theo Hug and Christian Glahn, people were ask to log into their computers. Instead of the usual password required for entry, they were presented with a flash card with a foreign word or phrase to be translated. The user needed to enter an answer to proceed to regular use of the device, though there was a built in option to skip if the user so desired. The study found that 75% users voluntarily answered the questions, rather than skip them. In this way the group estimated that the average user would be exposed to over 3000 pieces of new learning per year.
Microlearning In The Workplace
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.
Here are a few potential applications for microlearning in a corporate setting.
1. 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.
2. Certification Prep
Integrated micro-learning could making cramming for certification exams obsolete. The advantage of spaced repletion could also ensure the knowledge is firmly placed in long term memory.
3. Process Reinforcement
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, micro-learning could be used to prompt the user and reinforce process steps.
Gassler, G., Hug T., & Glahn C.(2004). Integrated Micro Learning – An Outline of the Basic Method and First Results. International Conference on Interactive Computer Aided Learning (ICL).