As a parent of children growing up in the digital age, I understand the value of microlearning. Attempting to shape behavior or teach life lessons is broken down into a series of five minute “teaching moments” at best… and that’s once you get their attention — all while competing with the microlearning they are getting from YouTube and Instagram.
As a learning professional, I’m a HUGE proponent of microlearning. However, as with any learning and development “hot trend” (see: eLearning, mobile apps, gamification), it can be easy to assume “one size fits all” when applying a microlearning approach to your learning needs. Like other trends, there is a time and place for microlearning, and it should be used as part of an overall blended approach to learning and performance support.
Here are three considerations for designing content in a micro-consumed manner:
1. Consider the Content
Frankly, pretty much any content can be diced into smaller, bite-sized “chunks”. However, I’ve seen instances where a client or practitioner has simply carved learning content into mini-modules, while effectively losing sight of the big picture.
Here’s a recent example: An organization was looking to train a subset of employees on a new, fairly complex process. The learning practitioner broke the process into smaller, step-specific training. The training was implemented with limited success. Why? By focusing primarily on creating microlearning, the instructional designer failed to set proper context for the overall process – what was changing, why it was important, how the audience fit into the big picture, and how their activities impacted others down the line. This caused key learning points related to handoffs and collaboration with other job roles to be missed. In effect, the learning was provided as a bunch of puzzle pieces, without providing the box to see how the pieces fit together.
2. Consider the Audience
According to eLearningindustry.com, Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. The average attention span of the Millennial generation is 90 seconds.
Based on this statistic alone, you can see that microlearning won’t be a passing fad. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the demographic and job role of the target audience into consideration to help ensure the learning is as effective as possible. Pushing doses of learning content via a mobile app may work well for the Millennials in the office, but for older or less tech-savvy audiences this may not be as conducive to learning as a simple desk reference guide or lunch-n-learn would be. This isn’t to say that technology-based microlearning shouldn’t be used, but you may want to consider providing the same content in a couple of different manners based on the make-up of your training audience.
3. Consider Performance on the Job
Similar to the content and audience make-up, on-the-job performance should also be considered when determining whether content should be broken up, how it should be broken up, and in particular how it should be delivered. Is the learning audience deskbound? Then provide the microlearning via quick reference guides that may be posted at their desk for easy access. Are you training salespeople who spend 90% of their time on the road? Then provide mobile-friendly training content and resources that are accessible where they need it, directly when they need it. Are you creating computer systems training? Then segment the content into short tutorial videos and virtual practice and embed them directly into the system.
When used appropriately, microlearning can increase engagement and retention while also providing users with easy-to-navigate reference after the courses have been completed. However, the audience, content, and performance all need to be considered prior to making the investment. If you need help deciding which learning strategy would be most beneficial to your organization, or you already know what you want but just need help creating it, contact SDI Learning!