One of the buzzwords you may have been hearing lately is microlearning. But what is it and would it be appropriate for your training initiative?

What is Microlearning?

By definition, microlearning is a small segment of instruction which can be consumed by learners as needed and applied immediately. While in most cases this means that microlearning is delivered over a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, it could be delivered on a PC as well.

The concept of designing smaller segments of content is not a new one; this strategy has been used in the design of online learning for many years and takes us back to another buzzword, learning object. One of the key differences is that typically a microlearning module is a standalone segment, whereas a learning object was one module in an overall course structure. By designing a course using learning objects, learners could more easily fit the completion of training into their overall schedule by completing the course over time as opposed to completing it in one sitting.

With microlearning, the intent is to create standalone training topics with a single objective. Ideally, each topic should include presentation of content, an activity to test the learner’s understanding of that content, and feedback that includes how to apply this content to a real-world situation.

What are the benefits of Microlearning?

So how do you know if microlearning would be beneficial for your learners? How about the organization?

Training When and Where They Need It

With microlearning, learners can access training as needed and apply it to a need just in time. For example, a learner may have taken a traditional course on a new process and now need to complete one of the procedures in that process. Learners can access the microlearning topic for that procedure, and immediately apply the information to the task they need to complete.

Additionally, since the learner can access the module at any time, they are in control of when they complete the training. Like everyone today, healthcare professionals have every minute scheduled. They want and need information at their fingertips and microlearning can be a way to provide learning content when it is needed. With the hectic schedules most of us are facing today, it can be difficult to find time for training. It is easier for learners to find five minutes to review a microlearning topic versus spending one hour on an eLearning course.

Focused Training

Microlearning also can be beneficial to adult learners as it will typically focus on one discrete topic. In an hour-long eLearning or one-day seminar, learners will be absorbing many different concepts and be expected to retain them after the training is complete. By focusing on one topic at a time, retention is increased especially since learners would immediately apply what they are learning.

Lower Cost and More Rapid Development

For organizations, microlearning can lead to faster development cycles and deployment. Because each microlearning module is on a specific topic, it can be completed more quickly. This is especially useful when you have a change to a known procedure. Rather than having to update a larger course, you could create a microlearning topic on the change and immediately get it released to your staff.

What content is most appropriate for Microlearning?

You may now be convinced that your next training initiative should be developed as microlearning. However, not all content is appropriate for microlearning. A training course on broad concepts such as effective leadership is more appropriate for a traditional training program. However, you could mix microlearning into the overall design and provide task-specific microlearning topics. For example, you could provide a series of microlearning case studies showing a video of an interaction between a manager and employee with questions about how well the manager handled the interaction.

Performance support is another good use for microlearning. A learner may have taken a course on a new software rollout but may not use all of the features all of the time. Having microlearning topics for specific procedures that are available to learners on as-needed basis is an excellent use of microlearning.

What design strategies are used in Microlearning?

Many of the design strategies used in online training can also be applied to microlearning. Interactivity, creative use of multimedia, and learner engagement are important elements of good microlearning. The more engaging the training is, the more likely the learner will remember it. Here are a few examples:

  • Storytelling: Weave a story into your microlearning to help learners apply the content to their own situations. Your microlearning topic might be on using a software program to complete a task but a story can help them see how using the program could solve a problem they face on a daily basis.
  • Games: Games have the ability to pull a learner into the situation and make them forget that they are actually taking a training module.
  • Knowledge checks: It’s recommended that each microlearning topic include some type of activity to ensure the learner has mastered the content. These can be standard multiple choice questions or more complex drag and drop or matching activities.
  • Simulations and case studies: Incorporate real-world situations into your activities so that learners can more easily apply what they learn to their own job. Use Try It activities so that learners can practice the key steps in a simulated environment.

Ready for the next step?

If you can answer yes to the following questions, microlearning may be the right answer for your next training initiative.

  • Do you have learners that need to access training on an as-needed basis?
  • Do you have content that can help to support the performance of your learners?
  • Do you have frequent updates to policies and procedures that you want to get into the hands of your learners as quickly as possible?
  • Do you want to decrease the development cycle for training projects?

KDG is ready to help you incorporate microlearning into your next training initiative.