Microlearning to Boost Employee Performance

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Microlearning – Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Microlearning is the future of training in the workplace as it packages valuable information in short nuggets, making it easier for learners to retain, remember, and apply knowledge/skills at work.

Getting Started with Microlearning
Getting Started with Microlearning

Know the benefits of microlearning, the various microlearning assets, its advantages over other learning formats, and more.

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Introducing Microlearning

What Microlearning is…

Microlearning is a training approach that delivers short bites of learning, each focusing on a single learning objective. Short learning nuggets cater to the shorter attention span of learners. It can be used in a variety of ways (such as micro-videos, infographics, flashcards, or GIFs) to enhance individual and organizational performance. 

What Microlearning is not…

There are quite a lot of misconceptions around microlearning:

  • It is just dividing content and developing a mini course
  • Any course of short duration is microlearning
  • It is a replacement for eLearning
  • It is only limited to videos
  • It is only for knowledge reinforcement
  • It can be used for every learning situation

However, the truth is, microlearning is not just about slicing content. Each micro module addresses a single learning objective, strengthens eLearning by offering pre-training, refresher training, performance support, and assessments – in spaced intervals.

A variety of formats can be used to deliver microlearning (discussed later), but we must ensure we pick the format based on the training need, learner profile, and the environment in which the course will be accessed – form follows function.

Microlearning is also not a direct fit where learners need to be taught something complex, or which can’t be fragmented. It can, however, be used to reinforce learning in such situations. A Survey by Software Advice indicates that 58% employees would feel more engaged in technology-enabled learning if the course content is divided into shorter lessons.

Microlearning Assets

Microlearning assets are the different formats used to deliver microlearning digitally – directly aligned to content type and the instructional strategy.

They can be configured in a variety of interesting formats depending on training needs and course content. Here are a few examples…

Microlearning Assets

Using Microlearning Assets to Address Different Learning Goals

To create awareness

Microlearning Asset: Trailers, infographics, GIFs, animations

To gain attention

Microlearning Asset: Videos, animations

To simulate recall

Microlearning Asset: Games, quizzes

To inform or teach

Microlearning Asset: Infographics, podcasts, process maps

To show or demonstrate

Microlearning Asset: Videos

To assess

Microlearning Asset: Quizzes, micro-assessments

Main Microlearning Characteristics

If you are thinking brevity is the hallmark of microlearning, you are right. However, it has several distinguishing characteristics.

  1. Addresses a single learning objective
  2. Leverages existing training content
  3. Follows a minimalist design trend (short & useful content with relevant visual)
  4. Uses a variety of microlearning formats
  5. Offers a mobile-friendly design

Helmwart Heirdeis in his academic essay published in the Didactics of Microlearning (2007), captures how pedagogical pioneers from Socrates to Johann Friedrich Herbart taught that it is essential to break curricula into smaller parts for learners’ benefit.

Benefits of Microlearning

Providing bite-sized learning modules enhances the retention levels of learners and ensures better transfer of acquired knowledge to the workspace. Consider your organizational goals, your desired learning goal, and decide if microlearning can meet your training needs. These are few situations where microlearning helps.

Microlearning Negates the Effect of the Forgetting Curve

If we look at the forgetting curve by Ebbinghaus, it shows that almost half of newly learned knowledge is lost in a matter of days, unless it is reviewed.

Learning is an active process that happens continually, and the key to beat the forgetting curve is revising learners’ knowledge periodically. It may not be possible to bring back learners to a classroom regularly. Microlearning for follow up and reinforcement activities will ensure employees continue to go up the learning curve over time.

Bite-sized modules made available over multiple devices provide greater opportunities for approaching learning as a process and not an event. Microlearning 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 enable learners to recap information. Mini quizzes or micro assessments can be used as pre-assessments to check learners’ existing knowledge be it in ILT (Instructor Led Training) or online training. Ensures knowledge is refreshed and helps them connect to the new knowledge.

Microlearning in the form of micro-video teasers, GIFs, or podcasts is a good way of introducing a topic to learners. A subtle hint of what’s going to come on the learners’ way will build up their inquisitiveness to learn.

Makes Time-Pressed Employees Make Time for Training

Microlearning being short and extremely focused on a single learning objective can be taken up by learners, in just a few minutes – even 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 run between 10-13 minutes.

Promotes a Learning Culture

Reuse existing training content and configure into multiple microlearning assets. This will help learners pick and choose the topic they want to learn – in their preferred format. Continual opportunities for learning will promote a learning culture and learners will have the flexibility of learning on multiple devices. Micro videos can be also be developed by learners and shared with peers – promoting the use of user generated content.

Offers Performance Support/Refresher Training

Short size and availability in myriad formats make microlearning ideal for offering performance support as well as refresher training. Use how-to videos to help learners look up how to troubleshoot a machine, infographics to showcase do’s and don’ts. As micro assets are short and handy, they can be accessed by learning at their moment of need – in the midst of work.

Finally, dynamic market changes demand quick the update of training content and the rapid rollout of training programs. So, if you need to update learning of something or bring them to speed on the latest happenings and trends, microlearning is you should reach out for. Microlearning modules are fast and easy to develop, update, and maintain, thus making training fast and flexible.

Microlearning vs. Other Learning Formats

Microlearning vs. Nanolearning

Nanolearning is shorter and more condensed than microlearning. Both aim at providing a learning experience within a short timeframe, have similar learning goals, and design style.

Although both work around a single learning objective, nanolearning further narrows down the single objective to a very specific learning point, which makes the duration shorter than microlearning. For more insights on microlearning vs. nanolearning, read this article.

All nanolearning is microlearning but not all microlearning isn’t nanolearning!

Microlearning vs. Mobile Learning

Microlearning is about one module, one learning objective delivered on mobile devices. Mobile learning is about the delivery format – it is on mobile devices, but might not focus on just a single learning objective.

You might feel microlearning, when delivered through mobiles becomes mobile learning, but that’s not the case. Mobile learning caters to the need of learners who are on-the-go, but courses might not be designed in the microlearning format using microlearning assets.

Microlearning can be on mobile and Mobile learning can be micro!

Microlearning vs. Social Learning

Microlearning is online learning in short nuggets covering a single LO. And yes, microlearning formats can be shared in social media.

Apart from posts in social media, microlearning assets such as infographics, videos, quizzes, or games can be posted on social learning platforms to start discussions and promote learning.

Social learning is a great platform to ensure Microlearning goes viral!

Microlearning Within a Blended Learning Framework

Microlearning can be implemented within a blended learning framework to either introduce learners to the course, to test their existing knowledge, to facilitate learning, or to reinforce learning.

Pre-training

Pre-training

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

During the training

Post-training

Post-training

Strategic games, micro quizzes for knowledge reinforcement

Infographics, podcasts, interactive PDFs, concept/process maps for performance support

Applications of Microlearning

Sales Training

Microlearning can be your best friend if you want to impart training to sales personnel. Since sales reps are constantly traveling, microlearning will serve them, being short, concentrated on a single LO, and compatible with mobile devices.

Let’s see why it is one of the most preferred learning strategies for sales teams:

  • 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 in sales training

Product Training

If your organization launches a new product or updates existing product features, microlearning is very pertinent. Employees need to be trained on these updates and new launches even before they are introduced to the market. In such cases, frequent classroom training or detailed online training might not be possible.

Microlearning will suit this scenario as it:

  • Is easier to update and faster to develop
  • Offers quick access on mobiles
  • Offers compact practice and revision opportunities

Here’s how microlearning assets can be used for product training:

Microlearning in product training

Onboarding

Handing new employees voluminous handbooks in a classroom will be a big put off for them. Also, lengthy eLearning courses will not work. Engaging adult learners with your onboarding program is the real challenge. Training managers like you can use the power of microlearning to make the best impression on your newly hired employees. A few reasons that makes microlearning a must-try in onboarding:

  • No information overload – small digestible nuggets
  • Helps beat the forgetting curve – spaced learning
  • Scope for employee-centric personalized learning

How microlearning assets meet onboarding training needs:

Microlearning in onboarding training

Software Training

Although software training seems to be a complex topic where microlearning courses might not fulfil the learning goals, you can use them to train learners on the various tasks to be done using the software. You can also choose microlearning for periodic reinforcements.

Let’s see why microlearning might prove useful here as well:

  • Enables mastery of complex tasks in bites
  • Offers virtual practice opportunities
  • Offers performance support and knowledge reinforcement

How software training is made successful with microlearning:

Microlearning in software training

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 offer learners mini scenarios to test learners’ decision-making skills periodically, use iSpring. Leveraging the inbuilt TalkMaster, you can select pre-defined characters and backgrounds, add your dialogues and develop scenarios quickly. Similarly, if you need to develop eBook, InDesign is an ideal choice.

While all tools help develop microlearning, a few of our recommendations are shared below.

MICROLEARNING FORMAT

BEST AUTHORING TOOL

Digital Flashcards

Storyline 360, Adobe Captivate

Whiteboard Animations

Storyline 360, Adobe Captivate

Infographics

Photoshop, Illustrator

Games

Storyline 360

Simulations

Adobe Captivate

Videos

Adobe Premiere

Scenarios

iSpring

eBooks

InDesign

Quizzes

Lectora Inspire

Microlearning in Action

Product Training for Sales Reps

Our Client:

Reputed healthcare organization that specializes in nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices, and branded generic pharmaceuticals

Requirements:

Our client was looking to reduce the duration of their ILT training sessions

Our Solution:

We developed a curriculum of microlearning modules for various drugs on:

  • Awareness on the disease the drug targets
  • Indications, contradictions, dosage, and restrictions of the drug
  • Performance of the drug vis-à-vis competition
  • Clinical application scenarios to convince doctors

Read the complete case here: https://www.commlabindia.com/case-studies/microlearning-for-sales-training

Microlearning Solution for Sales Manager

Our Client:

Manufacturer of special footwear and accessories for workplace safety 

Requirements:

Our client wanted us to develop short courses which wouldn’t keep employees away from work for long. The course was meant for their store managers, mobile footwear consultants, and district retail mangers on these subjects:

  • Product knowledge
  • Customer Service
  • Sales training
  • Inventory Management 

Our Solution:

CommLab India designed and developed a microlearning curriculum to meet their demands. We delivered 45 microlearning courses of 60 modules each, accessible on mobiles. Microlearning assets we developed included:

  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Games