Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Have you heard about microlearning? It’s a term that’s getting a lot of attention lately, but that’s just because it’s a proven concept in eLearning. More and more companies are using microlearning to provide their employees with opportunities for growth. If you’re interested in microlearning, take a closer look at how it could benefit you and how you can harness its power.
What is Microlearning?
It’s easy to define microlearning as simply a small chunk of learning that’s quick and easy to complete. While it’s true that microlearning is named for its brevity, there’s more to microlearning than its short length.
Grovo offers some great guidelines for what puts the micro in microlearning:
Microlearning zeroes in on a single learning objective.
In a microlearning course, there should be a very specific, targeted objective for each lesson. Unlike other training modules with multiple objectives, microlearning allows the learner to focus on a single topic at a time.
Microlearning should seamlessly integrate into the learner's routine.
This means not only that it should be a simple lesson that fits naturally into the learner’s regular workflow, but also that the learner should also be able to immediately apply the new skill. This packs a double punch, making the learning authentic and also ensuring the learner retains this new information.
Microlearning is self-directed.
Learners should be able to access microlearning content easily from their computers, tablets or phones and it should be intuitive to navigate.
Since one of the goals of microlearning is for it to fit nicely within an employee’s daily routine, it needs to be content that employees can complete independently. Nothing takes the micro out of microlearning like tasks that are too complex or a platform that isn’t user-friendly.
Microlearning is iterative.
The easiest way to learn something is through repetition. That’s why good microlearning content will start with the most difficult aspect of the learning objective so it can be repeated throughout the lesson. Be sure not to take this in the literal sense—with each aspect of the course, the high-level skills still need to fit smoothly and keep the learner's attention. Repetition can be achieved without monotony.
Microlearning content keeps things interesting.
Microlearning embraces variety in presenting and assessing new content. The preference is that the learner doesn’t really know what to expect and this holds their attention and keeps them engaged in the content.
Microlearning may use several different media modes within a single course that’s under 5 minutes. Look for gamification, video content, different interactions, images and animations all within the short learning segment.
Microlearning is short.
And yes, finally, as its name implies, microlearning is typically a quick learning session. Since the learning objective is simplified and the desired outcome is immediately putting that skill into practice, it just doesn’t make sense for microlearning to be the same length as a typical training session.
Why Does Microlearning Work?
There are many factors that contribute to the success of microlearning, including how and why it’s implemented. While microlearning may not be the solution to every training need, there are several reasons why so many companies experience positive results from microlearning.
The way we take in information both personally and professionally has changed. Internet users have grown accustomed to scrolling through a feed and skimming content that’s interspersed with images and video.
Text-heavy content that doesn’t grab the user’s attention in the first few sentences may be passed by entirely. Microlearning maximizes retention by using this new way of absorbing information to its advantage instead of fighting against it.
Some traditionalists have reservations about the idea that we should change learning to match the attention spans of our audience. They may argue that just because the internet has changed how younger generations learn doesn’t mean that higher education and corporations should have to change their training to meet this new need.
But there’s brain learning research as far back as the 17th century that shows adult learners may have always processed information better when they were able to receive it in smaller pieces over a longer period of time as opposed to in one extended timeframe.
Benefits of microlearning
If you’re still on the fence about microlearning, here are just some of the ways in it can be beneficial to learners as well their organizations:
It’s easy to complete whether you’re using a laptop or smartphone, so users can learn wherever they are.
Users are more likely to complete microlearning content because of the ease of access. There’s nothing more frustrating than investing in learning opportunities for your team only for a small percentage of them to actually use it. With microlearning, that’s much less likely to happen.
Microlearning is cost-effective. It’s less expensive than a longer course and you don’t have to spend resources on a face-to-face aspect that requires a trainer and a training space.
Just because it seems to be a great fit for informal learning, don’t be fooled! Microlearning can also be used for formal training, so it’s very versatile.
Microlearning can be a great solution for just-in-time learning needs when offered as part of regular workflow.
Since microlearning can be completed quickly, it doesn’t take too much time out of the workday and it won't be too much to complete outside the workday if necessary.
Microlearning is also easy to produce and update, so there’s less time needed for development, which means you can implement learning faster.
When not to use Microlearning
It’s true that there are various benefits to using microlearning, but that doesn’t mean microlearning can replace traditional eLearning, blended learning or face-to-face training sessions.
Since microlearning is best for on-the-job training, it’s best used with employees who already know the job. Beginners in any field or content area will probably require training of a standard length due to where they are in their learning.
Microlearning also shouldn’t be used for topics that are too content-heavy. If you can’t look at a resource and narrow it down to one or two simple learning objectives, the content may not be right for microlearning.
A good rule of thumb is to always consider your audience. If your audience is comprised of aspiring art historians, they’re likely looking for a deep dive into multiple facets of the content materials and they wouldn’t be well-served by completing a five-minute microlearning module on a single technique.
On the other hand, if your audience is a sales team at the end of the quarter, a microlearning module that will help them boost their effectiveness and only takes 5 minutes could be just what they need, as opposed to gathering them for an hour-long meeting on selling principles.
The Verdict on Microlearning
Microlearning could be just what your team needs to boost productivity and innovation in your workplace. It’s true that microlearning has a lot of benefits for the employer, but hopefully it’s obvious that microlearning is also meant to be empowering for the learner.
If you’ve ever sat through an all-day training session, even one with dynamic, inspiring speakers that engage you with their content, it’s likely that you’ve left that session with a lot of good ideas that may be difficult and time-consuming to see through to completion. Even the best seminars can leave you fatigued and a bit overwhelmed.
It’s wonderful to experience in-depth, engaging training in your field of interest, but it’s also very satisfying to come to the end of a learning segment and be able to immediately use what you’ve learned. When used in the right applications, microlearning could be just what you need to give your employees a boost of motivation and a sense of accomplishment.