March 28, 2019
Lots of people are talking about microlearning – particularly L&D professionals – but what actually is it? Simply, microlearning is the delivery of information in small bursts, making it quick and easy to digest. This information may take anywhere from a few seconds to twenty minutes to digest, and can take many different forms – text, video, audio.
While in theory microlearning can be used in any learning context, it is most frequently referred to in the sphere of technology and digital learning. This is because the accessibility and convenience of technology – particularly mobile devices – goes hand in hand with the concept of making learning quick, instant and on-the-move.
Microlearning can be particularly useful for delivering specific, skills-based training. When learners face a problem at work, they can access the relevant information instantly, and get immediate results. This on-demand learning style, also known as just-in-time learning, can be extremely beneficial to employees as it provides frequent knowledge boosts and gives them greater confidence when doing their job; for example, a ten minute microlearning session could help a manager brush up on soft skills before an important meeting, or remind a sales executive of the specs of a new product. Such sessions can lead to improved confidence and better outcomes.
Microlearning can also be applied to more long-form training courses; in fact, breaking down a larger course into smaller, manageable sections can be extremely beneficial.
A lot of employees are motivated to learn new skills; however it can be hard to find the time, and a report from Deloitte stated that 1% of a typical work week is all that employees have to focus on training and development. Microlearning is particularly suited to busy individuals because large blocks of time don't need to be devoted to learning, even if there is a lot of information to get through. Instead, employees can learn in stages at times that suit them. They can even use time that is normally wasted, such as the five minutes before a meeting, or their morning commute.
The application of microlearning to long-form learning courses can actually improve learning outcomes. The logic behind this is that microlearning makes information easier to retain, particularly if each section includes a quiz or test. Studies suggest that frequent testing improves long-term retention of information, while on average our concentration declines after 10 to 20 minutes and can be 'rejuvenated' by short, frequent rest intervals.
Microlearning also provides a sense of achievement upon completion. We've all heard the same advice – never tackle a huge goal head on, but break it down into small, manageable chunks; the same logic applies here, and with the frequent reward of progress, learners are more likely to make it to the end of a long training course.