Microlearning solutions deliver ‘big things in small packages’ – valuable need-to-know information in short nuggets – making it easier for learners to retain, remember, and apply their knowledge/skills at work. What more could you ask for?
According to a survey by Software Advice, 58% employees would feel more engaged in technology-enabled learning if the content is delivered in the form of short lessons.
And learning architect Ray Jimenez, PhD, in his book 3-Minute eLearning, states that creating micro courses can help learning developers reduce development costs by 50% and increase development speed by 300%.
What is Microlearning?
Microlearning is a flexible and one of the most effective forms of training that can be used in a variety of ways to enhance individual and organizational performance. It delivers short bites of learning, each addressing a single learning objective. It can be standalone or be part of a blend and is the ideal way to offer learning at the moment of need.
Characteristics of Microlearning
Along with brevity that is its hallmark, microlearning has several distinguishing characteristics.
Addresses a single learning objective
Leverages existing training content
Follows a minimalist design trend (short & useful content with relevant visual)
Uses a variety of formats
Offers a mobile-friendly design
Microlearning is becoming increasingly popular in organizations especially with the millennials and Gen Z employees, who have very limited attention spans, are more tech-savvy, and are used to accessing information instantly.
What is NOT Microlearning?
Is NOT just chopping up content to make mini courses.
Is NOT limited to videos.
CANNOT be used a replacement for eLearning or for every learning situation.
Is NOT the same as Nanolearning: All nanolearning is microlearning but all microlearning isn’t nanolearning!
Is Not the same as Mobile Learning: Microlearning can be on mobile and Mobile learning can be micro, but both are not the same!
Microlearning is an evolving eLearning trend is not the right fit to teach complex topics or those which can’t be fragmented. It can, however, be used to reinforce learning in such situations.
Helps time-pressed employees make time for training
Promotes a learning culture
Offers performance support/refresher training
Microlearning makes information easier to assimilate and increases retention. The modules are easier to develop, update, and deliver with much higher completion rates. And because of its compact nature, it works well with other techniques such as Peer Learning, Spaced Repetition, and Just-in-Time training.
Negates the Effect of the Forgetting Curve
According to the forgetting curve by Ebbinghaus, almost half of newly learned knowledge is lost in a matter of days, unless it is reviewed. The key to beat the forgetting curve is to refresh learners’ knowledge periodically. While it might not be feasible to bring learners back into the classroom regularly, microlearning can be used to provide follow up and reinforcement activities to ensure continual learning.
These bite-sized modules help beats the forgetting curve by:
Offering spaced learning
Providing just-in-time learning
Helping retrieve knowledge from memory
Preps Learners for Online/Classroom Training
Quizzes, flashcards, or infographics can be used to help learners recap information. Mini quizzes or micro assessments can be used as pre-assessments to check learners’ existing knowledge before ILT (Instructor Led Training) or online training. This also ensures knowledge is refreshed and helps them connect to the new knowledge.
Microlearning in the form of video teasers, GIFs, interactive infographics, or podcasts is a good way of introducing learners to a new training topic and pique their interest in the training.
Makes it Easier for Employees to Make Time for Training
Microlearning being very short and addressing a single learning objective can be taken up by learners, in just a few minutes – while traveling or during downtime. This way employee time will be saved, increasing their inclination to take it up.
An ATD research reports that microlearning should ideally be 10-13 minutes long.
Promotes a Learning Culture
Existing training content can be configured into multiple microlearning assets, enabling learners to pick and choose the topic they want to learn – in their preferred format. Continual opportunities for learning will promote a learning culture with learners having the flexibility of learning on the device of their choice.
Learners can also develop micro videos and share them with peers – promoting the usage of user generated content.
Offers Performance Support/Refresher Training
Their short duration and availability in different formats makes microlearning modules ideal for performance support as well as refresher training. As micro assets are short and handy, they can be accessed by the learner at their moment of need, in the flow of work – How-to videos to help o troubleshoot a machine, infographics to refresh dos and don’ts.
Finally, dynamic market changes demand quick updates of training content and the rapid rollout of training programs. So, if you need to update existing courses or bring learners to speed on the latest happenings and trends, microlearning is what you should opt for. These modules are easy to develop, update, and maintain, thus making training fast and flexible.
When to Use Microlearning
Microlearning has proven to be a great driver of learner engagement, perhaps more than any other form of training. When employees need quick help to perform a specific task, ‘micro’ is the way to go as it provides short, concise, need to know information to achieve one specific learning objective.
When to Say “No!” to Microlearning
Just like how training is not the answer for every problem with employee performance, microlearning may not be the solution for all your corporate training challenges. Here are a few situations where it is definitely not the best training solution.
As a Replacement for eLearning: While it may be tempting to replace all eLearning with microlearning, it will not work when there is a lot of content requiring detailed explanations. In such cases, microlearning cannot be used as a standalone solution but can be very effective when used as part of a blended approach. It can also be used to supplement your existing eLearning program.
To Train on Complex Content: When your training program deals with complex content or content that’s highly technical, microlearning cannot be a standalone solution, but can be used to reinforce formal learning.
To Gain Mastery Over a Topic: Mastery requires in-depth study, practice, and a lot of time. For instance, training on a new software or leadership skills cannot happen overnight. It requires opportunities to practice, which is why watching a 5-minute micro video or listening to a podcast is not enough. The more in-depth the learning, the less appropriate microlearning is.
So, How do you Decide When to Use Microlearning?
Training aims to provide employees the ability to perform tasks that will help attain organizational objectives. A job task inventory will help identify what you want employees to do as part of their jobs and choose the best way to help them learn to do those tasks.
Once you have identified the job tasks, you need to categorize them based on four critical parameters, which are ranked from 1 (low) to 4 (high):
Frequency: How often the task is performed on the job
Importance: How important the task is to the overall effectiveness of performing the job
Learning: How difficult the task is to learn
Risk: What is the risk associated with performing the task incorrectly
Microlearning can used for training on tasks that are:
Performed very rarely or very often (Frequency 1 or 4)
Not important or very important (Importance 1 or 4)
Relatively easy to learn (Learning1)
Associated with low risk when NOT performed correctly (Risk 1)
A Look at Microlearning Formats
Microlearning solutions can be used to address a wide variety to learning needs across the learning journey – right from creating awareness about the scheduled training to offering practice opportunities and refresher bytes.
These learning nuggets can be used in a variety of ways (such as explainer videos, infographics, flashcards, or GIFs) to support eLearning through pre-training, refresher training, assessments, and performance support in spaced intervals. Here’s a brief look at microlearning assets or formats that can be delivered digitally.
It’s important to choose the format based on the training need, learner profile, and the learning environment – form should always follow function (and not the other way around)!
These learning nuggets can be used in a variety of ways (such as explainer videos, infographics, flashcards, or GIFs) to support eLearning through pre-training, refresher training, assessments, and performance support in spaced intervals. Here are a few situations where microlearning can help.
Trailers, infographics, GIFs, animations
Inform or Teach
Infographics, podcasts, process maps
Show or Demonstrate
Assess or Test
Microlearning With Other Learning Formats
Within a Blended Learning Framework
Microlearning in corporate training can be implemented within a blended learning framework, to introduce learners to the course, to facilitate learning, to test their existing knowledge, or to reinforce/refresh learning.
Micro trailers/teasers to give an overview of the topic
Micro quizzes as icebreakers
Micro videos to introduce a new topic
Infographics/animations to revise the basics
Micro assessments as pre-tests to gauge existing knowledge
During the training
Micro videos for demonstrations
Simulations for hands-on experience
Interactive PDFs for nice-to-know facts
Infographics for understanding steps/process
Strategic games, micro quizzes for knowledge reinforcement
Infographics, podcasts, interactive PDFs, concept/process maps for performance support
Microlearning and Social Learning
The short microlearning nuggets covering a single learning objective can be shared in social media. Infographics, videos, quizzes, or games can also be posted on social learning platforms to start discussions and promote learning.
Social learning is a great platform to make Microlearning go viral!
Authoring Tools for Microlearning Development
All popular authoring tools can be used to develop microlearning assets. Each has its strengths and lends more to the development of certain formats.
For instance, if you are looking to test learners’ decision-making skills with mini scenarios, go for iSpring. Its inbuilt TalkMaster allows you to select pre-defined characters and backgrounds, add dialogues, and develop scenarios quickly. If you need to develop eBooks, InDesign is your best.
While all tools can be used to develop microlearning, here are a few recommendations.
Best Authoring Tool
Storyline 360, Adobe Captivate
Storyline 360, Adobe Captivate
Applications of Microlearning
Microlearning can be leveraged for different types of training to improve employee performance. Here are a few design models with suitable examples that can be used for various training types.
Microlearning is your best bet when it comes training your sales personnel. As sales reps are constantly traveling, microlearning is ideal for them, being short, focused on a single learning objective, and compatible with mobile devices.
Provides just-in-time learning
Offers crisp learning nuggets
Offers a virtual hands-on experience
Enables learning on mobile devices
How microlearning can be used for Sales Training:
Microlearning makes the training manager’s life much easier when your organization is launching a new product or updating existing products and when employees need to be trained on these updates and new products even before they are introduced to the market. In such cases, classroom training or online training might not be feasible.
In such a scenario, Microlearning works best as it:
Handing your new hires voluminous handbooks in a classroom or making them sit through lengthy eLearning courses would not be a great way to welcome them into the organization, would it? Engaging your adult learners with your onboarding program is the real challenge. But you can make the best impression on your new hires by leveraging microlearning, as it:
Causes no information overload – small digestible nuggets
Helps beat the forgetting curve – spaced learning
Provides scope for employee-centric personalized learning
How microlearning assets can be used for Onboarding Training needs:
Although software training appears too complex a topic to be handled by microlearning solutions, you can use it to train learners on various tasks they need to do using the software. You can also use microlearning for regular refresher training because it:
Enables mastery of complex tasks in small bites
Offers virtual practice opportunities
Offers performance support and knowledge reinforcement
The Client: A manufacturer of special footwear and accessories for workplace safety
Requirements: Short courses which wouldn’t keep employees away from work for long. The courses, meant for their store managers, mobile footwear consultants, and district retail managers, dealt with:
Our Solution: CommLab India developed and delivered 45 microlearning courses of 60 modules each, accessible on mobiles. Microlearning assets included:
Latest Trends in Microlearning
It’s not surprising that microlearning is a hot favorite with corporate organizations because it uses the modern learner’s attention span optimally to deliver training that is focused on a single learning objective. If you want to know what’s happening with microlearning, here are the latest microlearning trends
Microlearning + Mobile Learning
Mobile learning for corporate training is the most efficient platform for hosting and delivering microlearning for learners. The wide range of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) being used today globally have made ‘microlearning with mobile learning’ the best solution for employees’ training needs. Given that everyone is constantly with their mobile phones most (if not all) of the day, it makes sense for performance support or just-in-time training in the form of small nuggets to be delivered via these very same mobile devices.
Microlearning + Gamification
Like any other format of learning, microlearning also benefits from game-based learning and elements of gamification.
An effective microlearning course consists of engaging elements like videos and images, infographics and podcasts, games and interactivities. Thanks to the support of mobile learning, it’s become very simple to add small educational games that help achieve the learning objective in microlearning.
Apart from games and gamified assessments, gamification elements like leaderboards, scoresheets, rankings, level ups, rewards (even nicknames and gamer tags), etc. can be added to add an element of edutainment.
Microlearning + Augmented and Virtual Reality
According to the latest marketresearch.com report, the global VR market (including all immersive and semi-immersive mixed reality applications) is expected to grow from USD 13 billion in 2020 to USD 47 billion in 2025. AR and VR applications in corporate training have shown phenomenal growth in recent years. AR is being increasingly implemented in training, especially for impromptu product training (where pointing the phone camera towards the product will reveal relevant information) or sales training.
Microlearning + Artificial Intelligence
Artificial learning (AI) can be used to create customized learning paths for learners, when automatic suggestions of microlearning modules are sent to learners based on their preferences.
In the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, Polonius says, ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’. That holds true even today, especially in corporate training. And so we can boldly say, ‘Brevity is the soul of microlearning!’
Microlearning solutions greatly appeal to modern Gen Y and Gen Z employees, with their limited attention spans and remote employees who spend a major part of their workday away from their desks. With advances in technology, microlearning is now being used in conjunction with gamification, personalized learning, social learning, augmented reality, and more. So, harness the power of small and in your training framework and experience big game-changing results!