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What Is Microlearning
EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT

MICROLEARNING

Microlearning Defined

Microlearning delivers short, focused learning and performance support in less than 5 to 10 minutes. Learners generally access microlearning assets in the moment of need and then apply what they've learned immediately on the job. Microlearning can also support broader learning and skill development goals via short, strategically spaced learning steps aimed at greater retention. When used at the right times for the right outcomes, microlearning drives better employee performance. It quickly targets what people “need to do” rather than what is “nice to know.”

Microlearning enhances learning and performance in the most efficient and effective manner possible through short pieces of content. Sometimes a microlearning resource is focused on knowledge acquisition, but the goal with microlearning is often skill-building and performance support.

Microlearning key characteristics include the following:

  • Single Objective Focused: Covers a single task, skill, or nugget of knowledge, even if it's a single, small step in a broader learning plan
  • Single Activity Focused: Uses a single learning activity to achieve its objective
  • Modular: Ties to larger business goal or outcome, but provides easy to design, produce, and update
  • Accessible: Supports learning from a variety of devices, including mobile devices, laptops, phones
  • Flexible: Allows learners to engage at their pace and desired time
  • Holistic: Stands alone, yet allows learners to get a full view of a single topic

Microlearning Benefits

To thrive in today's technology- and information-driven world, learning has to happen all the time. Continuous learning is here to stay--as is the demand for quicker, more agile learning. Microlearning can help meet this demand.

Designed as bite-sized, self-contained chunks of content, microlearning delivers a lot of bang for the buck. Paired with flexible technologies, microlearning allows learners to easily access specific content in specific work contexts, even when they’re on the move.

Microlearning improves learner engagement by focusing on what learners need to do while providing just the right amount of supporting information. Studies have found that well-designed microlearning can produce 4 to 5 learned skills per micro-session. Certainly, microlearning is great for learning and retention; however, it's a superstar for on-the-job scaffolding.

Not only is microlearning a win for learners, but it is also a win for learning and development organizations. Instructional designers and eLearning developers can produce microlearning faster, cheaper, and easier than they can build a traditional eLearning course. Because it’s modular, instructional designers can quickly and easily assemble microlearning - and just as easily update subsequent iterations. For some organizations, this increases speed by 300% while cutting costs by 50% (Source: Ray Jimenez, “3 Minute eLearning”).

To find out how else your learners and learning and development organization can benefit from microlearning, read this blog post: https://www.dashe.com/blog/three-examples-of-how-microlearning-can-improve-your-training-program

Microlearning Types/Modalities

Ineffective training, like “show up and throw up” presentations or glorified slide decks with voiceover, costs businesses $13.5 million for every 1,000 employees. This is because employees only retain 10% of the information or skills delivered in these formats - the other 90% is lost. By taking a microlearning approach that leverages visual and interactive content to improve the quality of your training, you can increase retention, reduce skill loss, and stretch your training budget further. (Source: https://www.slideshare.net/GoGrovo/atd-microlearning-2015-final)

Many people associate microlearning with video, a common modality for microlearning solutions. Other effective examples include brief eLearning modules, job aids and performance support, infographics and interactive infographics, self-paced quizzes, eBooks articles, blogs, podcasts, virtual and video coaching and so on.

A microlearning program doesn’t need to incorporate all of these modalities for it to be effective. However, it does need to incorporate modalities appropriate for the learner and suitable for the performance objective. For some learners, this could mean selecting modalities that can incorporate hands-on activities or simulations into the microlearning solution. For others, it could mean opting for interactive modules that turn learners into participants in a story.

Here are descriptions of some of those.

Video

Video is a powerful mode of communication, which translates nicely to microlearning. Videos have the power to show and tell while delivering messages with more personality than an eLearning or slide deck.

Motion graphics videos give movement to graphic design to illustrate complex ideas visually. They often combine pieces of animation with audio, but not always. Motion graphics videos can range from animating simple abstract shapes or forms to telling character-driven stories.

Live-action video records images digitally instead of on film stock to realistically capture people, sets and props. In addition to capturing the video content, producers edit the clips into a finished product that tells a story or communicates a message.

Live-action videos work best for product or how-to demonstrations and for showing authentic human expression. Use motion graphic videos when you want to explain concepts, ideas, and concepts - basically, anything that is abstract in nature.

Regardless of the video format you choose, keep in mind that the point of microlearning is to deliver quick, bite-sized content. Microlearning videos should range from 15 to 90 seconds. Our experience tells us attention spans drop off by the 120-second mark, so we strongly advise keeping microlearning videos under the 2-minute mark.

Here's a sample we produced for Invisalign:

 

Micro eLearning Modules

Micro eLearning modules are bite-sized pieces of a full-length eLearning course. These are boiled down to one or two objectives to keep seat time to a minimum. Although they are brief, they can contain the same elements as traditional eLearning - like images, video and interactive activities - just fewer of them per module.

Micro Quizzes

A lot of us are accustomed to including knowledge quizzes or other forms of assessment at the end of each learning segment. In a microlearning module, however, asking a learner to take a summative assessment counteracts the short, just-in-time nature of microlearning (Source: ATD’s 2017 research report on microlearning).

A microlearning alternative to this is a short quiz designed to teach through the feedback. Here’s how it works: Learners review the question or scenario, and then select the correct response. Immediately upon submitting their answer to that question, they see the correct answer and receive feedback. Learners take the time they need to process the feedback. They determine whether they are on the right path, and if not, they can remediate.

This approach provides immediate and relevant feedback to the learner, identifies specific misunderstandings, and uses the quiz as both a learning tool and a self-assessment.

Infographics and Interactive Infographics

Compared to text alone, text paired with images increases comprehension by nearly 90%. This alone makes the case for using infographics as part of your microlearning strategy. (Source: Dr. Ruth Colvin Clark and Dr. Richard E. Mayer. E-Learning and the Science of Instruction. http://bit.ly/RichardMayer)

Infographics show, rather than tell. They integrate imagery, charts, and text to provide an easy-to-digest overview of a topic. They can visualize data and tell a story. What’s exciting about infographics is that they can be interactive, too. Learners can click on links to other resources like videos, articles, and eBooks.

eBooks

eBooks can incorporate interactive components of eLearning, graphic design elements of infographics, and information-packed text of articles and blogs. eBooks are multiplatform-friendly and downloadable to any device. Learners can even print the eBook if that’s what they need.

Take a visual-driven approach to eBooks so that content jumps off the page and sticks with learners. According to behavioral research conducted by 3M’s Visual Systems Division, people process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. This means learners learn much faster just by incorporating images.(Source: http://web.archive.org/web/20001102203936/http%3A//3m.com/meetingnetwork/files/meetingguide_pres.pdf)

Imagine how much more effective eBooks are when you make them interactive as well. By making learning hands-on, interactivity creates more engagement so that learners retain more of the eBook’s contents. Learners can drag and drop objects and take notes in an eBook. They can click on links to eLearning simulations, video tutorials and other learning aids or performance support.

By integrating principles of visual communication and multi-media interactivity, you can transform a text-heavy report or an in-depth whitepaper into a compelling eBook with a memorable message.

Here's a sample eBook available on our site:

A Client's Guide To the eLearning Review Process

For more resources like this, CLICK HERE.

Microlearning Use Cases

Microlearning can be used as performance support, where the learner accesses the segment at the point of need, such as when they perform a highly complex task, or one executed infrequently. It can also serve as support for longer learning. For example, learners may attend a half-day, in-person training session, and then access microlearning segments with key content when they need a refresher at a later date.

We continue to see organizations leverage microlearning content as part of a blended learning solution, as performance support for employees who want to learn ‘in the flow’ of work, and as part of a content curation strategy.

Blended Learning

Some firms recognize the limitation of microlearning when it comes to deep learning and technical skills development, so they plan to complement microlearning with other traditional modalities such as ILT, books and longer videos.

Performance Support ‘In-the-Flow’ of Work

Firms within the healthcare industry are driving the demand for microlearning solutions that incorporate interactive technologies, like 3D images of internal organs and live interaction with experts, so that they can access critical learning in the moment of need.

Other firms recognize that microlearning “in the flow” is how employees satisfy their curiosity, obtain procedural tips and/or reinforce concepts with which they are already familiar when they do not have time to sit and dig into macro learning (e.g., attend a course).

Content Curation

A few firms are moving away from a traditional learning management system (LMS) altogether. These firms are instead moving toward content curation to facilitate self-directed learning. This approach delivers customized informational and educational content to employees just in time.

Microlearning Design

Microlearning is an inherently agile and proven platform that supports learning and performance whether in the flow of work or as part of a larger upskilling or reskilling strategy.

Learning Objectives

Establishing the performance or learning objective upfront helps you identify whether the objective can be accomplished through microlearning or if it is suited for a different form of learning, such as in-person classroom learning or a longer eLearning module (Source: ATD’s 2017 research report on microlearning).

Microlearning design applies the core principles of learning and user experience, yet it strips down content to its essential components and delivers in the moment of need.

To be effective, each microlearning asset must be designed as a standalone piece of content focused on one learning outcome. Microlearning should focus on essential content that is “need to know” instead of “nice to know.” It should have its own introduction, learning objective, "how-to" piece, activity, and summary. This type of learning works best when the contextual setting is already familiar to the learner.

From a project intake and scoping perspective, it’s useful to identify boundaries around what length of microlearning is considered most ideal or effective. According to a microlearning research report published by ATD, the learning and development professionals they surveyed told them this about effective microlearning length:

  • 13 minutes is the maximum amount of seat time for a solution to be considered microlearning.
  • Segments between two and five minutes are considered the most effective length for microlearning.

Beware, though. Poorly designed or delivered microlearning can result in just a bunch of micro information, floating meaninglessly out of context. As in all learning and development efforts, applying the basic principles—instructional design, user experience design, visual design—is paramount in providing learning solutions aligned with how learners learn, while also making the best use of our resources.

When Not To Use Microlearning

While microlearning has proven successful for a variety of outcomes, it might not always the best approach. Other more traditional methods might still be best when learning complex content or when introduced to a something for the first time.

A microlearning format may make it difficult for learners to connect topics together in a coherent, macro picture. When learning about an end-to-end process for the first time, learners may benefit from a longer-form solution. Microlearning may not be the right choice or when learners need to study content in detail over longer, more focused amounts of time.

It’s important to conduct a training needs assessment and root cause analysis before developing any program. This ensures we provide learning solutions aligned with how learners learn, while also making the best use of our resources.

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Here are three examples of microlearning we've produced for our clients.

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Repurposing existing material for microlearning means the heavy lifting is done! READ MORE HERE.

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