In today’s world where we’re bombarded with hundreds of stimuli throughout the day, it’s more difficult than ever for people to dedicate already limited time and resources to their own personal and professional development. How can we ensure that we meet the learning needs of our audience in this quick-paced, always-connected, easily distractible digital age?
Learning and development professionals are looking to microlearning as a solution that might stand up to this challenge. Creating shorter, more compelling learning modules allow learners to engage with bite-sized chunks of content more easily while still getting an impactful and complete instructional experience.
- What is microlearning?
- What does microlearning look like?
- Why does microlearning work?
- How to Develop Microlearning
- Training a multigenerational workforce
- Where does microlearning work best?
- Overcoming the challenges of microlearning
- Making microlearning work for you
- Gamifying microlearning
- Is microlearning just a trend or here to stay?
So, what is microlearning? It’s like the snackable content of the learning world. Think bite-sized, focused pieces of content that usually take between 5 and 10 minutes to consume. Each mini-lesson hones in on one objective, preventing our brains from feeling overwhelmed and allowing us to grasp the core concepts more readily.
These tiny lessons are like puzzle pieces, forming a larger learning picture. While the whole learning journey may extend over a few hours, learners can dip in and out, consuming lessons at the point of need or, if the curiosity bug bites, indulge in a series of lessons for a deeper dive. This flexible approach resonates with how adults naturally seek information, especially when tackling real-world problems.
Ever Googled a quick “how-to” to fix a tire or try to solve your kid’s math homework? While comprehensive knowledge of tires or the Pythagorean theorem is valuable, our immediate needs usually drive us to seek specific, actionable knowledge. This is the essence of microlearning—delivering meaningful learning through precise, pertinent experiences
Microlessons might encompass a variety of formats such as videos, activities, infographics, games, live sessions, or even offline tasks, catering to the diverse learning appetites. Blending different learning activities often yields a richer, yet concise exploration of a concept, enhancing learner engagement through visual and cognitive diversity.
The secret to packing a punch in a short span? Emphasis on application and practice. When designing a microlesson, ponder, “Is this aiding learners in decision-making and execution?” Incorporating real-world scenarios and interactive quizzes offers immediate feedback, enabling learners to correlate concepts to practical utility. Resources like job aids and quick tips serve as immediate applicators, enhancing the on-the-go learning experience.
The evolution of microlearning
Since 2021, the microlearning landscape has been buzzing with innovations, especially in mobile learning spaces. Enhanced with gamified microlearning, platforms like Thinkific enable creators to craft engaging, interactive learning experiences, turning lessons into immersive journeys.
Examples of updated microlearning:
- Scenario-Based Learning: Crafting real-world scenarios where learners can make decisions, helping them understand the consequences in a safe environment.
- Interactive Videos: Integrating quizzes, polls, and discussions right within the video to keep the learner engaged and assess understanding immediately.
- Mobile-First Design: Designing microlearning content primarily for mobile users, acknowledging the increased consumption of learning on mobile devices.
- It’s based on how people actually learn. Because microlearning focuses on one concept at a time, learners are less overwhelmed by irrelevant information, and the key concepts are more likely to be transferred to their long-term memory.
- It fits easily into people’s daily routine. Because microlearning is usually delivered on a variety of mobile and desktop devices, learners can learn on the go, whenever they have a few minutes to spare.
- It personalizes the learning experience. Microlearning lessons build on existing knowledge and are largely self-directed, allowing learners to decide how much content to view and in what order. And, even when specific learning paths are assigned, learners can complete the training when and where it’s most convenient for them.
- It offers an opportunity to make learning fun. Many microlessons include multimedia, interactive quizzes, and games that keep learners engaged with the content and motivated to return for more.
- It’s often more affordable than traditional e-learning courses. Microlearning courses are usually cheaper to build, quicker to deploy, and easier to update.
- It influences behaviors that have specific results. Learners can use microlearning to find specific information right when they need it.
Diving into the world of microlearning can be exhilarating, especially when you envision the compact, impactful learning nuggets you can create. Developing microlearning is like brewing a powerful cup of coffee—it’s all about mixing the right ingredients in the right proportion.
Steps to Creating Effective Microlearning
To create a rich and effective microlearning experience, follow this step-by-step guide to ensure each learning nugget is packed with flavor and impact:
- Identify Clear Objectives: Start with clarity. What do you want the learner to know or do? Defining clear, concise objectives ensures your content is focused and goal-oriented.
- Analyze Learner Needs: Know your audience. Understand their needs, preferences, and learning styles to tailor your content to their expectations and requirements.
- Choose the Right Format: Whether it’s a video, infographic, game, or text, select the format that best aligns with your content and resonates with your audience.
- Craft Concise Content: Less is more. Keep content succinct, focusing on the essential information and eliminating any unnecessary fluff.
- Incorporate Interactivity: Engage the learner. Embed quizzes, polls, and interactive elements to keep the learner active and assess their understanding simultaneously.
- Use Real-World Scenarios: Contextualize learning. Present concepts within real-world scenarios, helping learners relate and apply the knowledge effectively.
- Optimize for Mobile Learning: Cater to on-the-go learners. Ensure your content is responsive and optimized for mobile devices, enhancing accessibility and user experience.
- Test and Gather Feedback: Refine and perfect. Test your content with a small group, gather feedback, and make necessary adjustments for optimal learning impact.
- Iterate Based on Performance Metrics: Measure and improve. Analyze user engagement and learning outcomes to continually refine and enhance the microlearning experience.
Remember, the essence of microlearning is to deliver precise, focused content that’s immediately applicable, so keep your learners at the forefront of every step in the development process!
As Millennials now represent 35% of the workforce, it has become clear to learning and development professionals that traditional, in-person, face-to-face training sessions are not meeting the learning needs of this new generation of employees. These “digital natives” are often characterized by short attention spans and self-interested motives. Interactive microlearning has been touted as the perfect learning solution that speaks to the learning preferences of the Millennial: on-demand, informal, and customized to their needs.
However, it’s not just the younger workforce that’s navigating the distractions of today’s high-tech world. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, though having a foundation in classroom-based training and tangible course materials, are discovering that they too share common learning preferences with their younger counterparts. This includes the pursuit of purposeful work and a drive to enhance their performance efficiently.
Across all generations, the competition for time and attention is intense, making it paramount to deliver learning in succinct, focused bursts. There’s seldom a need to sit through a 45-minute video about all the features of a printer when the immediate requirement is to learn how to resolve a paper jam. Similarly, investing time and money in a comprehensive 2-hour course on exercise science may seem excessive for someone simply looking to master the correct form for a push-up.
Microlearning offers an opportunity to support the learning goals of every learner, no matter their age. In fact, research found that microlearning increases employee focus and encourages long-term retention by 80%—making it a no-brainer for organizations of every size.
Just-in-time microlearning for hard skills
It’s easy to see how microlearning can be an effective tool for teaching “hard skills,” such as how to safely use a jackhammer or how to record a patient’s vital signs. Microlessons are brief enough not to interrupt a learner’s workflow, but thorough enough to give them a comprehensive refresher on the process just before they use the tool or enter a patient’s room.
Microlearning to reinforce soft skills
On the other hand, teaching soft skills with microlearning is a bit fuzzier. Soft skills can be challenging to coach through e-learning methods due to a lack of interpersonal interaction and incomplete assessment of training effectiveness. To address topics like leadership or other less concrete soft skills, you might consider developing longer microlearning programs that explore multiple perspectives and reinforce concepts.
For example, a microlesson about leadership could teach specific practices that a manager would need to exhibit in order to successfully manage multiple projects. After reviewing the initial content, the learner could immediately apply this in their own life and see the impact. Follow-up practice scenarios that the learner sees over the course of several days could then reinforce the concepts for long-term retention.
Training across topics
Perhaps microlearning has the most potential when it’s used to create a library of resources across a wide range of topics. Once learners are familiar and comfortable with a microlearning platform, they will return to that trusted learning repository, knowing that they will find timely and relevant content that meets them wherever they are on their learning journey.
A robust search engine and metadata tagging allows learners to quickly locate the content that they are looking for. In addition, pre-assessments partnered with artificial intelligence can suggest microlessons relevant to a learner’s knowledge gaps, and the platform can offer recommendations of other microlessons where the learner can go to continue to explore topics of interest.
Even the succinct, impactful nature of microlearning comes with its own set of challenges, but identifying and tackling these can lead to a more cohesive and enriched learning experience.
Microlearning’s tendency to be fragmented requires a careful balancing act. Each lesson must be a standalone unit of knowledge, yet cohesively integrated within the overarching learning strategy. This ensures a continuous and connected learning journey even within the compact structure.
For intricate topics that demand a deeper dive, the brevity of microlearning may fall short. Employing immersive videos, simulations, or other in-depth approaches can offer the nuanced understanding needed. Microlessons then act as valuable supplemental tools, reinforcing and revisiting crucial points post the foundational learning.
Facilitating deep discussions is not the forte of microlearning. It’s better suited to drive reflection and peer learning on objective concepts and to provide supplementary resources and revisions on key points, allowing for clearer and more concise understanding of complex topics.
Lastly, the self-directed aspect of microlearning can occasionally leave especially novice learners feeling lost, unsure of the next steps in their learning paths. This makes it crucial for microlearning to be structured and guided, especially when it’s aimed at learners who are still grappling with the basics of a subject, ensuring no vital concepts are skipped or overlooked.
Recognizing and addressing these challenges is the key to harnessing the full potential of microlearning, making it an integrated, supportive, and effective component of the learning ecosystem.
Designing microlessons requires more effort than just segmenting existing content into smaller chunks. Here are a few tips to design a microlearning program that learners will embrace.
Focus the content
- Introduce each lesson with “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM). Explaining how the learner will benefit from the microlesson is the first step to creating an efficient learning experience.
- Ensure that your content is authentic, meaningful, and inspires learners to learn more. Integrate real-world scenarios, so learners can see how to apply the concepts for themselves.
- Focus on what learners “need to know” instead of what is just “good to know.” Understanding your learners’ needs will help you avoid unnecessary noise that will distract from the main ideas.
- Design fun, thought-provoking content that learners want to share with others. Consider including collaborative activities and interactive participation to motivate learners to take charge of their learning.
- Employ a variety of delivery media types to address different learning goals. For example, you might use a whiteboard animation to introduce a topic, an interactive simulation activity to practice the skills and provide immediate feedback, and then a downloadable PDF that learners can use as a quick reference guide later on the job.
- Pair microlearning with other training techniques. Peer learning, gamification, blended learning, and spaced repetition can all be integrated into a microlearning program to further improve knowledge retention.
Maximize the learner experience
- Consider offering a how-to session or a comprehensive FAQ option, so that learners who are less technologically savvy can become comfortable with how to navigate through the microlearning content.
- Choose a mobile-first approach, so that learners can access the microlessons on the go.
- Use catchy titles, concise bullets, and attractive images to help learners skim through the content for the answers they are looking for.
- Integrate accessibility into everything you do. Microlearning can be built through a variety of platforms, many of which offer accessibility features within their core products and processes.
Embedding gamified elements in microlearning is like adding a sprinkle of joy to the learning process, making it a journey full of exciting discoveries and rewards. It’s about weaving the thrill of games into learning experiences, striking a balance between fun and knowledge acquisition.
Adding fun to learning
Gamified microlearning taps into the intrinsic enjoyment found in games and marries it to educational content, forming an alliance that boosts engagement and retention. In fact, 83% of those surveyed felt motivated while receiving gamified training. This approach doesn’t just bring a sense of playfulness and excitement to learning; it offers a rewarding and interactive experience that fuels the desire to learn more.
By integrating elements like points, badges, leaderboards, and challenges, learners find motivation not just in the content, but in the journey of acquiring it. The competitive yet enjoyable environment encourages learners to interact with the content more willingly, fostering a deeper connection with the learning materials. This playful interaction doesn’t dilute the learning objectives but rather, it enriches them, making learning feel less like a chore and more like an adventure.
Gamifying microlearning facilitates better knowledge recall and application by keeping the learner actively engaged and motivated. It transforms learning into an interactive experience, creating a sense of accomplishment and encouraging continuous learning. The essence of gamified microlearning is to make the process of acquiring new skills and knowledge as enjoyable and memorable as possible, enhancing the overall learning experience.
Microlearning is likely to be on the rise to address the accelerating rate of technological and societal disruptions. Traditional, longer classes may not be able to keep up with topics that change and pivot so rapidly.
For learners, microlearning holds the potential to help break down barriers to equitable education, such as time, affordability, accessibility, and prohibitive pre-requisites. For experts and L&D professionals, microlearning offers a viable alternative to transform how content is shared with learning communities.
Are your learners demanding more convenient ways to upskill and prepare for the changing realities of the world?
Microlearning just might be the solution you’re looking for to reduce frustration and increase the engagement of the modern distracted learner.
What is the optimal length for a microlearning module?
A sweet spot for microlearning modules tends to be between 1 to 10 minutes. However, the ideal duration really hinges on the complexity of the content and the specific learning goals you’re aiming to achieve.
Is microlearning a good fit for technical training?
Absolutely! Microlearning shines in technical training scenarios, delivering concise, focused information that can be quickly understood and applied, making it a go-to method for many technical subjects.
Are there specialized software tools to create microlearning content?
Yes! Numerous authoring tools, like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate, are specifically designed to streamline the creation of impactful microlearning content.
How can the success of microlearning programs be gauged?
The effectiveness of microlearning programs can be evaluated using a variety of metrics, including assessments, learner feedback, and monitoring progress and performance. These insights can help you refine content and delivery for even better results.
Can gamified microlearning appeal to learners of all ages?
Yes! Gamified microlearning is versatile and can captivate learners across different age groups, provided the gaming elements are carefully chosen to resonate with the preferences and learning goals of the intended audience.
Are there specific industries where microlearning is making a significant impact?
Microlearning is making waves in many sectors like corporate training, healthcare, education, and retail due to its adaptable and efficient nature, allowing for learning that fits everyone’s pace and schedule.
Try Microlearning yourself today
Exploring online teaching platforms? Check out The Leap for its innovative, AI-powered mini-course creation tools.
This blog was originally published in February 2021, it has since been updated in October 2023.