Microlearning is a lot like how it sounds … small pieces of training to help your learners digest your online course material.
The idea of watching an hour long video can be daunting and keep your learners from ever pressing the play button. In a world where everyone's busy trying to do 5 things at once and short attention spans are the norm, watching a bite-sized video is a much more enjoyable idea and something most everyone has time for.
In addition to just being bite-sized, the microlearning experience disseminates the right set of information to learners while allowing them to meet a specific learning outcome. It focuses on dividing large content and repackaging it into smaller units which can be taught within a relatively short time.
As a general example, I don't have time to watch a 5 hour video series on how to cook, but I do have time to watch a 5 minute video showing me how to make lasagna. This makes a lot of sense especially if I have to make dinner for an upcoming occasion. Learning how to cook is just too broad of a topic. A lot of your customers might feel the same, no matter what market you serve.
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Common Microlearning Myths
Since the introduction of the concept of microlearning, it's been touted as the next hot thing and the preferred model of delivering online training. Despite its fame and preference, microlearning is still shrouded in various myths. Here are some of the most notable microlearning myths …
Microlearning is only about delivering content within a short time.
Microlearning particularly focuses on delivering short bursts of information to learners. However, a common myth is that any content delivered in small learning units is microlearning. That's not always the truth. To illustrate that, let's take my “how to cook” example from earlier.
Even if the course creator chops this 5 hour video training up into 5 minute videos, it's still not going to appeal to me. I need my real-world problems solved for me in bite-sized videos. I want to know what to make for dinner because that's a real-world problem. So a 5 minute video on a specific dinner idea is perfect for microlearning. A 5 minute video taken out of a huge tutorial on how to cook is not.
Microlearning is a combination of various attributes, the primary of which is the focus and objective of the content.
In corporate microlearning, the focus is on equipping trainees with competency in a certain area with specificity. Often, the specificity leads to the content being relatively short and thereby deliverable within a short period. So it's short because it's specific. It's not short because we just want it to take less time to watch.
Therefore, the content may be short and deliverable within 5 minutes and yet not qualify as microlearning. Content deliverable within a longer duration of time can be accurately classified as micro learning in some instances.
The specificity of the training is really what's at the core of microlearning. Take a look at a few microlearning examples if you want to see how microlearning works (you may even want to sign-up for a few of these).
It's not a jack of all trades.
It's also assumed that micro learning is effective in virtually every objective and situation. But not all training can be achieved through micro learning techniques. Some concepts are simply too complex.
For example, if you get a new job, it's impossible for you to be trained in short bits here and there as you'd be poorly equipped to start working. Instead, you need to take a complete orientation training and learn every aspect of the workplace and your new job.
Why Microlearning is Gaining Preference
Statistics show micro learning is the preferred mode of training in many instances. For example, microlearning makes the transfer of learning 17% more efficient. In addition, it creates 50% more engagement with learners. Microlearning can be combined with gamification to create even more engagement with learners.
Microlearning gives course developers an opportunity to break down content into individual units which makes it easier for trainees to digest. In addition, it's also easier for course trainers to create.
Similar to how I know I don't want to watch a 5 hour video on how to cook, course creators don't want to create a 5 hour video on cooking. A 5 minute video on how to make lasagna is way easier to create. In addition to being a shorter course, it also has a finite start and end to it which makes it easier to visualize and begin.
Benefits of Microlearning
Here are just a few benefits of microlearning.
It's just-in-time learning.
The short bursts of information are given in the precise moment when they are needed. This is a major convenience for your learners. Instead of following a path through a course, your learners can choose what matters most to them and learn that.
Results are often quick.
As the course creator you want to know if your learners are getting something from your training. Microlearning actually tends to get digested to a much larger degree than longer content without a specific goal to it.
More of your learners will start to see the transformation your online course provides because more of them are willing to consume your content. In addition, since it's goal oriented, they start moving toward whatever goal they had in mind.
Despite these multiple benefits to you and your learners, just-in-time microlearning can be plagued with various pitfalls. Here's a few …
Developing an appropriate just-in-time training module requires sufficient planning.
One big problem with micro training is that many small training programs don’t have a big picture goal. You've got to plan out the big picture goal before-hand and not just throw together lots of bite-sized videos.
In the cooking example, the goal of the program might be to help learners never run out of dinner ideas. So you have to stay on topic with dinner ideas only and you have to come up with a variety of recipe ideas that most people will like. You might want to have enough recipe videos for someone to make it through a month. In addition, you can't have a “how to make a base sauce” in the collection of videos. It's strictly one complete recipe per video.
Failure to obtain feedback.
Feedback is necessary when designing content that can help transform your learners. It's rare that course creators seek feedback from learners on the progress and suitability of the short training courses. This can be a major setback as the course creators will not have access to the information they need to progressively improve the course.
How to Avoid Pitfalls
Pitfalls can be a major hindrance to microlearning. Avoid pitfalls by including a well-designed microlearning strategy, applying training best practices for your microlearning needs, and appropriately using facilitative technology.
Creating a suitable strategy.
Focus on the specific needs of your learners. This first step should lead you to develop a single precise objective that the training will seek to achieve. Gear the objectives towards attaining measurable results.
The next step leads you to identifying and focusing on the particular area of content from within a larger context and developing short presentation material. The presentation should only jot down the training nuggets that will meet your learner’s specific needs.
Focus should be made on using relevant additional channels of conveying information such as infographics and videos which are generally easier to digest and memorable. Such infographics create a long-lasting impression that helps increase the retention of information on the learners’ minds. They also help summarize large volumes of information into shorter bursts of information.
Lastly, the strategy should use appropriate channels of learning convenient for your learners. Highly preferred methods facilitate the learners’ ability to access the training. This might mean mobile learning as they may need to access it on the go.
Technology to Use
Online training is increasingly more video based so you should stick with video for micro learning. One benefit is that short videos are easier to produce than long videos. In addition, there are a lot of microlearning tools out there for making short, engaging videos. You can also use quizzes to check that learners know what they're doing.
Microlearning should be mobile friendly. Learners may want to access your content on the go so make sure they can. Most people have mobile phone plans with unlimited wireless so even if your online course is on a website make sure it's mobile friendly. You can also take the additional step of turning your course into a mobile app or developing it on a microlearning platform.
Microlearning seems here to stay especially with the rise in training on-the-go from mobile devices.
In addition to microtraining, many online courses are also taking advantage of adaptive learning and elearning gamification. Both these are hot trends in online learning that combined with microlearning will help keep engagement in your course at an all-time high.