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Microlearning under the Microscope: Part I

Matthew Brew
Matthew Brew

What’s the common thread in these 3 experiences?

  1. You’re stranded on the side of the road with no idea how to change a flat tyre.

  2. You have to deliver a report to your boss in 30 minutes, but can’t get your Excel formulas to work.

  3. Your kitchen is flooding and there’s no room in your budget to call a plumber...

You’re neither a mechanic, a mathematician, nor a plumber, and you don’t have the time or desire to pursue formal training in any of these subjects.

Enter microlearning!

We define microlearning as bite-sized chunks of content (3-5 minutes long), ideally delivered to learners at the moment of need.

Microlearning puts learners in the driver’s seat, allowing them to choose the content they need, when they need it, in a format that works for them.

Microlearning is best when it’s designed for mobile, allowing learners to access it wherever they are (even while stuck on the side of the road!). In fact, it’s no surprise that how-to videos are the second most watched type of content on YouTube.

What does that mean for business?

Microlearning is not only useful for changing tyres or emergency DIY, it’s having more and more impact in the workplace as well. Many employees are taking learning into their own hands (like searching for Excel tutorials), and forward-thinking managers are incorporating microlearning into their training programs.

Let’s say your employees work in an industry where they aren’t sitting in front of computers all day long. Mobile-friendly microlearning can be delivered to them wherever they are, through their own devices. Maybe your employees have to occasionally recall obscure facts that aren’t part of their everyday work. Microlearning can deliver an on-demand tutorial or cheat sheet. Is there some sort of change in your policy or procedures that needs to be communicated, but you don’t have the time or resources to roll out an entire training program? Once more – microlearning to the rescue!

Why does it work?

Besides being quick and and easy to access, what makes microlearning so effective? The Association for Talent Development (ATD) identifies three main factors:

1. It’s inexpensive to create

The design, development, and implementation process for microlearning can be, dare we say it, ‘micro’, compared to traditional online training. You can deliver a quality project with limited time and budget.

2. It holds learners’ attention

Employees check their phones 150 times a day but devote only 1% of their time (24 minutes a week) to learning. They also switch tabs every minute! That doesn’t leave much time or attention span for traditional learning. Microlearning meets learners’ needs before they have time to get bored.

3. It’s memorable

Learners who use microlearning are engaged - in many cases they’ve sought out the content based on their own desire to learn.

Based on cognitive load theory, information moves from sensory memory as we process the content, then to working memory when we apply it, and then to long-term memory when we retain it based on successfully using it. Short-term memory lasts for less than 30 seconds and holds around 7 items, so the bite sized nature of microlearning helps information stick.

Great! So how do I start using microlearning?

Since employees are already seeking out microlearning at the point of need, smart organisations are making sure that the information is available for them in a user-friendly microlearning platform. Companies can see high returns on investment by creating and delivering microlearning that reinforces the skills and knowledge needed on the job. When learners are immediately able to put things into practice, the experience is meaningful and impactful, which helps beat the forgetting curve.

Microlearning under the Microscope: Part II | Microlearning under the Microscope: Part III