You’ve heard the buzzword — microlearning. You’re probably thinking, isn’t it just splitting long-form content into 5–10 minutes chunks?
You’re not alone in this misconception. But learners won’t receive the benefits if you try to teach 60 minutes of continuous content in 5 minutes chunks over 12 days. Instead, they’ll receive the information haphazardly because it was originally designed to carefully build on previous concepts. So they’ll either end up confused or misinformed.
You need to design microlearning modules that will leave learners empowered to do their jobs, while still fitting into the learner’s busy schedule.
The 10 Microlearning tips in this blog post will ensure your microlearning modules hit the mark and deliver business results.
- Make it 15 minutes or less
A survey by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) found professionals thought microlearning should be between 2–5 minutes long, but in many organizations, microlearning modules last between 10–15 minutes. The modern learner only devotes 1% or 4 minutes/day of their workweek to learning. Microlearning provides one option to fit into this schedule.
Short training modules can also help learners solve a problem in their daily life. Instead of turning to Google, learners can use the curated, microlearning modules provided by their employer to find the solution suggested by their workplace.
- Choose one learning objective
The main difference between designing a microlearning module and a traditional module comes down to the number of concepts covered. You already know how to create learning objectives for traditional modules, but in a microlearning module, you only need one.
Like learning objectives in traditional courses, it needs to relate to the skill you’re teaching and it needs to be measurable. If you’re taking learning objectives from a larger training, you might need to shrink them. For example, “How to file a tax form to accounting” might become “How to fill inline 356 on the tax form.” When transitioning to microlearning, you might find you need more learning objectives and modules than before to cover the same topic.
- Ensure it’s self-contained
Large courses naturally build on knowledge taught earlier in the course. Instructors often call this practice scaffolding. Even though microlearning looks like chunking, the best practice is to make the modules self-contained.
A self-contained microlearning module will contain all the information the learner needs to complete the assessments. It might also include an introduction, informational material, practice, and assessment.
At the same time, defining familiar terms will easily become tiresome for your learner. E-learning allows you to link learners to previously learned terms instead of taking the time to redefine them.
- Include assessments
Even on one objective, learners benefit from an assessment. It gives them the chance to apply what they just learned by answering a scenario-based question or a multiple-choice quiz or reflecting on personal experience. Ideally, they also receive feedback on their performance.
Microlearning can also harness two powerful learning practices — spaced repetition and the testing effect. Since humans forget most of what they learn, they’re more likely to remember it by spacing the learning out over a number of days. With the testing effect, researchers have discovered recalling information for a test improves knowledge retention. Microlearning provides a system for spacing out the learning material and administering quick knowledge checks.
- Links to “good to know”
Learners only have time for essential information during a microlearning module.
At the same time, subject-matter experts (SMEs) become subject-matter experts by learning “nice to know” information. They have a deep understanding precisely because their knowledge is contextualized. This contextualized information can be linked at the end of the module to give learners the opportunity to deepen their knowledge, while still ensuring the short module gives them the skills to improve their performance.
- Package like a social media post
People love surfing social media because it’s engaging. Social media posts generally follow three key rules to raise engagement: 1) clickable headlines, 2) photos, or 3) embedded videos.
Most social media posts also focus on inspiring a reaction from their friends and connections. People posting want to solve a problem or solicit advice or share a rant. They want to inspire a reaction in someone else. Powerful microlearning modules also aim to inspire a reaction, rather than encourage passive acceptance of the information.
- Use visual communication strategies
Training often starts with a textbook. However, people learn better from visuals. In fact, visual aids improved learning by 400%. For educational purposes, infographics can helpfully distill complex ideas into consumable content. Similarly, walkthroughs can help people learn new digital processes.
- Make it interactive
Learners in a university lecture experienced less inattention during active teaching methods (asking questions, performing practice questions instead of direct lectures. Just like in a classroom, online learners benefit from interactive learning methods. They’re more engaged by a quick game in a microlearning module, than a video lecture.
When possible, include an interactive element to your microlearning modules, even if it’s just a quiz at the end.
- Build it off real-world problems
Adults learn best when presented with information relevant to their specific situations. Unfortunately, research has found adults often tune out any irrelevant information.
By giving adult learners real-world problems or scenarios, instructional designers can make microlearning modules quick and memorable. In this format, the module starts with a problem or scenario. Then, the learner chooses a response and receives feedback based on their choice. Cathy Moore’s blog features examples of branching scenarios for adult learners. Scenarios also provide learners with the opportunity to practice soft skills difficult to assess via a multiple choice quiz.
- Offer it in multiple formats
Microlearning modules do not have to be a quick video or a wall of text. They could be both. Some learners prefer reading, while others like audio. If you offer both, then learners can choose what fits their work styles and preferences.
Some job roles lend themselves better to one format over another. Retail salespeople may access learning via mobile more often because they don’t have a work computer. If your staff primarily drives to service calls, then they may prefer listening to learning podcasts on the road. If you offer multiple formats, then you’ll always get it right.
Why microlearning is more than chunking
Microlearning goes beyond uploading a PowerPoint in 5-minute chunks to your learning management system (LMS) or learning experience platform (LXP).
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