Microlearning is a buzzword used widely in the edtech industry, with many learning designers simply chunking learning content into small pieces of three to five minutes without actually solving competency-based problems like learner engagement, lack of time and the shorter memory span of modern learners. Much of this buzz also disregards three strategic aspects of Microlearning: content design, learning design and learning delivery. In doing so, content creators undermine the true potential of microlearning.
Imagine tearing off pages from a book and giving them to the learners to read one page each day. Would anyone understand it?
While vendors and e-learning service providers promote microlearning as an off-the-shelf solution to be used like a genie’s lamp to solve all the learning and development issues in your organization, they fail to understand that microlearning is not a technological solution—it is a learning strategy.
Therefore, you shouldn't buy a microlearning product (authoring tool or LMS) before you have a microlearning strategy in place. Instead, let your plan decide the technology you are going to need. Here are the five things that you must avoid if you want to implement microlearning into your digital learning initiatives successfully:
1. DON´T chunk content; redesign it.
Microlearning does not mean butchering existing learning content into small pieces. Imagine tearing off pages from a book and giving them to the learners to read one page each day. Would anyone understand it? A better solution would be to rewrite the text and create tiny booklets with a specific purpose for each of them.
Similarly, you must redesign the digital content for your microlearning initiatives. While redesigning, focus on the learning outcome of an individual content piece. Each content piece must provide value to the learners and answer a “How Do I…?” question. Also, be sure to tag your learning resources extensively to make them easily searchable.
Another solution is to break all the focused knowledge areas into goals or objectives for the learners. Once you have these objectives in place, conduct surveys asking learners to rate the comfort level for each task they are performing as a way of getting feedback. Involve peer networks and ask these networks to measure the same functions to reach a broader feedback range.
2. DON´T restrict yourself to one content format.
Most of the authoring tools vendors promote their products to be the best for creating microlearning. In reality, many resources can be used effectively in your microlearning initiatives.
Include a daily do´s and don´ts email, a weekly video about best practices, a bi-weekly gamified quiz with leaderboards or short slideshows about the latest product updates for sales teams. These are all resources you can use as microlearning. Use a combination of any of the above strategies to have a more balanced portfolio of microlearning resources. An LMS like learningCloud can help you organize and distribute all of your multimedia and interactive content simply and easily.
Another essential thing to consider is to harness knowledge and expertise in your organization using content curation. Allow your learners to participate in content creation and enhancement via social layers. This user-generated content could prove to be a great help in focusing on content creation while also taking some pressure off the instructional design process.
3. DON´T use microlearning for everything.
Microlearning is not a solution for all the learning needs of an organization. Like classroom training, manuals and online courses, other learning modes will still be relevant to specific learning needs.
So, where to use microlearning?
- Reinforcement: Use micro-snippets for the key takeaways from your latest in-classroom training.
- Performance Support: Quick and practical hands-on tips as micro resources would be powerful performance support for your learners.
- Knowledge Updates: Latest developments, theories, findings, etc., are frequently updated; it is challenging to change whole courses. Use micro-resources to communicate these changes.
You must start with your learners and do an in-depth analysis of what they do daily. If you follow these guidelines in creating your online program, microlearning can be an exciting way to reach specific learning objectives based on your learner’s needs—whether they are brushing up on workplace skills, looking for quick DIY tutorials or even learning about cloud computing.
4. DON´T deliver microlearning; stream it!
The traditional LMS-centric learning requires the packaging and delivery of education. Consequently, you need to prepare everything before you package because once packaged; there is no way to change anything inside the unit. This method increases the overall turnaround time for learning development to delivery.
...focus on measuring the impact of learning. How did your learners change? Were there improvements in knowledge, productivity and behavior?
With microlearning, you should create learning resources and not courses. These resources are then available to the learners as and when they are ready. Let the learners consume whatever you have developed and seek feedback. Improve the resources based on the input and stream them when they are ready. Create a constant stream of these learning resources aligned to students’ (and even alumni´s) journeys in your organization.
5. DON´T forget to measure and improve.
I am deliberately using the word measure instead of tracking. Most of the learning platforms are focused on tracking a learner’s activity like time spent, scores earned, courses completed, etc. However, you should focus on measuring the impact of learning. How did your learners change? Were there improvements in knowledge, productivity and behavior? You will need more in-depth insights to improve your learning initiatives iteratively.
Remember the surveys conducted in the first step? Pick the ones with the lowest scores to start with your pilot. Yes, a pilot! Microlearning allows you to “Fail Fast and Fail Cheap.” So, take full advantage of this to improve your learning initiatives continuously.
Now that you have your microlearning strategy in place, ask yourself the following questions to help you decide on an effective platform for your learning initiatives:
- Does the learning platform allow you the flexibility and agility to create and stream microlearning?
- Are there content creation, curation and social features available?
- Does it allow you to tag learning resources to make them searchable?
- Does it go beyond tracking scores and give you analytical insights as well?
Once you ask yourself these questions and have a solid microlearning strategy in place, it means you are ready to take the next steps in your organization´s e-learning journey.