Microlearning: What Is It, And How Can You Use It?


Your attention span is decreasing, as is that of your employees. While that fact may not be something you want to hear, it is something you need to contend with when designing learning activities. So, how do you combat shrinking attention spans? Well, you don’t have to, you can cater to them with microlearning. 

What is Microlearning? 

Microlearning is a way to deliver bite-sized, focused content, often referred to as microcontent, to your employees. This style of learning allows your employees to access point-of-need training that quickly and clearly addresses what they need to learn or get a refresher on. While microlearning can take various forms, digital content is the leading one. Each microcontent section is usually limited to four to six minutes but fitting all the necessary information into the shortest amount of time is considered best. 

Sounds great, but what does it look like, and how do you know if a piece of training is microlearning or not? 

What does Microlearning look like? 

There are a few considerations for microlearning: 

  • Scope: Microlearning provides coherent, and often actionable, chunks of information that can be easily remembered and put into practice right away. Information is packaged in smaller units that can stand alone or be combined to form more extensive training materials. 
  • Point of need: Microcontent addresses a specific need at a specific time. It includes only the necessary information in an easily digestible format. Your employees get what they need when they need it. 
  • Buildable: It’s unrealistic to expect your employees to immediately start applying all that they’ve learned after sitting through a 60-minute training course. Now, if that information was broken out into strategic chunks that could build upon another and be easily accessed when the need arises, that would be microlearning. 

Benefits of Microlearning 

Now that you know what microlearning is and what it looks like, why should you use it? Let’s explore the benefits of using the leading form of microlearning — digital content. 

  • It’s practical. It’s not always possible or practical to observe something firsthand, and digital is the next best thing. Need your employees to understand how to perform certain procedures, key specific computer processes, or diagnose safety concerns? A learning video can fulfill those requirements without requiring in-person training or without putting anyone in harm’s way. 
  • It’s consistent. A templated learning video can provide consistency in how a procedure is taught. The content remains the same every time it is viewed. 
  • It’s expected. Your employees are becoming more accustomed to learning things using digital content. Think of the last time you received a user manual, did you read through it or search for videos that explained how your device works? How-to videos are prevalent in the marketplace and becoming the norm. 
  • It’s personal. You can use people and locations that are identifiable within your organization. Referring to familiar scenarios will make your employees feel part of the learning experience. 
  • It’s mobile. Microlearning videos are flexible and can be delivered on a range of devices. Offering your microlearning library in mobile format allows your employees to access training videos regardless of where they are. They could knock out a refresher course or new learning video on their morning train commute or while waiting in line for coffee. The possibilities are almost limitless. 

Elements of Microlearning 

So now you know what microlearning is and the benefits of using it, how do you go about creating it? There are a few elements that you need to focus on when designing microlearning materials. 

  • Make it easy. Your microlearning should be easy for your employees to search for, easy to access, and easy to complete. 
  • Make it for them. Use real, relevant examples for your workplace. Recognizable locations, accounts, contacts, etc. weigh heavier with employees than hypotheticals. Don’t expect your employees to sit through content that doesn’t apply to them or their roles, create separate microcontent for them. You may develop different microcontent units for each of the departments involved in a specific process and house that within one module, but only require the employees to complete their department’s unit. 
  • Make an impact. Keep content short by including only the necessary information. The name microcontent is a big hint. Keep it clear and simple. Microcontent needs to be clear, simple, and short. Consider creating linked content or bundle microcontent into modules if you need several variations on the topic. Simple does not mean dumb. Make quizzes and questions smart and applicable to the learning objective. 
  • Make it part of a larger program. Microcontent is meant to be stand-alone, but don’t think that it can’t be part of something bigger. Bundling microcontent into larger training programs allows your employees to complete their required content while allowing them to understand how their roles and actions fit into the big picture. 

While some may consider microlearning merely trendy, it is unlikely that this style of presenting information is going to decline in popularity. Employees have come to expect it, the benefits are numerous, and our decreasing attention spans may soon demand it. 

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