What is microlearning and why you should use it

Microlearning is a resource-based approach that offers short, quick, easy-to-create, and easy-to-consume content that supports learning on the fly. It enables employees to learn at their own pace and according to their own priorities. In this article, we’ll explore microlearning’s definition, discuss its benefits, and go over a few examples.

By Kasper Spiro on Oct 3rd

microlearning

What is microlearning?

Microlearning is among several dominant e-learning trends. But what exactly is microlearning and why should we care about it?

In short, microlearning can be defined as a resource-based approach that offers short, quick, easy-to-create, and easy-to-consume content that supports learning on the fly. It enables employees to learn at their own pace and according to their own priorities. Connie Malamed defines microlearning as an “ideal way to find quick answers to specific problems” which implies that content is mostly granular and current.

Why care about it?

Microlearning is a flexible approach that can complement mainstream learning interventions in meaningful ways. According to an author and L&D expert, Carla Torgerson, Microlearning can be used in the following ways:

  • Preparation/Pre-work: Anything that comes before long-form instruction
  • Follow-up/Boost Learning: Anything that comes after long-form instruction
  • Short-form: Anything that can stand alone
  • Performance Support: Anything that can support the performance on the job

Microlearning benefits

There are also several advantages of microlearning that make it worth it including in your organization’s e-learning strategy. Here are the top seven benefits of microlearning:

1. Microlearning is quick and easy to implement

You can quickly rollout your microlearning program. Since the key is to keep the material as short as possible, it takes less time to produce content. Especially if your organization has already implemented an e-learning platform, you’re all set to start publishing highly effective microlearning. This speed makes you more agile in responding to changing business needs.

To make it even easier to maintain, empower experienced employees to create and share their own content. This is known as Employee-generated Learning. Microlearning is an excellent format for employees to contribute e-learning content to a shared knowledge pool.

2. Reduces costs

Being such fast nuggets of knowledge, microlearning takes very little resource to produce – meaning it’s very cost-effective. It requires fewer trainers and you don’t need to invest in overly complex tools and design. This is especially true if you use Employee-generated Learning and/or already have an LMS or authoring tool in place.

3. Improves e-learning outcomes

For e-learning to be effective, it must be interactive and engaging. Learners thrive when they enjoy the learning experience. Microlearning gives your learners information in quick, easily digestible “packages,” so they don’t need to spend hours finding the information they need.

This “quick fix” aspect gives learners a better sense of accomplishment, making the learning process more rewarding. They’ll instinctively want to learn more because they’ll notice it feels good to learn in this format.

4. Learn whenever, wherever

With the knowledge your employees need available in small bites and on a mobile learning platform, they can access it when they need it, wherever they are, and around their schedule. A salesman can brush up on his product knowledge on the way to meet a client. Or a busy developer can build on her software skills at home in the evening.

5. Lasting impact

Think of all the books you read in school. Out of all those books, how many facts and figures can you remember? Chances are, only a small fraction. That’s because the scope of a textbook or a lengthy course is so broad, it’s hard to keep track of what really matters.
By sharpening the focus down to very specific learning goals, microlearning content clearly defines what the learner will take away from the learning experience. This makes it far likelier for the learner to form a clear memory of the information and retain it for longer.

6. Perfect for millennials

For younger employees who grew up relying on the internet for quick tidbits of on-demand knowledge, microlearning is already second nature. The fast-paced, data-driven society of the future has an unlimited need for information, but a short attention span. No one has time to sit through hours of training courses or flip through entire handbooks just to take away one or two useful bits of information.

We’re much likelier to benefit from easy access to concise pieces of information that we can use whenever we need, without having to sift through pages of less relevant information. Another great advantage is that microlearning is mobile-friendly. Access information like quick video tutorials and forums right on your smartphone or mobile device, whenever or wherever you need.

7. Apply knowledge easier

The true test of whether you’ve learned something is when you can perform it yourself. Microlearning encourages learning by doing, which is the most effective way for people to acquire new skills and knowledge. Microlearning content focuses on teaching one specific piece of knowledge, so it’s perfect for viewing on the job, while you’re carrying out a task.

Imagine you’re a technical support representative helping a client fix a software bug over the phone. If you’re new to the process or just need to jog your memory, you can quickly retrieve the information you need so you can confidently help your client go through the steps in real-time.

From cutting costs and saving time to improving learner outcomes, microlearning ticks all the boxes for a better e-learning experience.

Types of microlearning

Because the goal of microlearning is to equip the learner with short nuggets of information (as opposed to a full e-learning course with several chapters), there is a wide spectrum of content types you can create. Here are a few:

  • PDFs
  • How-to videos
  • Interactive checklists
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Recorded Webinars
  • EBooks

But how can you apply or leverage these types of content to engage in microlearning? We’ll go over two microlearning examples in particular and the value they bring.

Practical microlearning examples

Next to the types of content, here are some examples of how microlearning can meet learning needs:

  • Microlearning video examples
    Someone who needs to edit a photo but doesn’t know how to use Photoshop can easily look up a YouTube video that provides a quick overview of the specific skills they need. This allows them to quickly find answers to their momentary questions, avoiding the need to sit through a lengthy course just to fulfill a task.
  • Microlearning in the form of how-to guides
    Retail workers refer to how-to guides that outline the information they need for daily store opening procedures. These guides can include cleaning standards or processes for visiting auditors to follow. Our tool, Easygenerator, makes it easy to create how-to guides and share them with your learners.

Given the rapid changes in the world, microlearning can come across as a highly versatile solution to maintain the knowledge currency in organizations. However, this can’t be the panacea of learning needs and as learning professionals, we should carefully weigh our learning options for both macro and microlearning needs.

 

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About the author

Kasper Spiro is the CEO of Easygenerator and a recognized thought leader in the world of e-learning. With over 30 years of experience, he is a frequently asked keynote speaker and well-renowned blogger within the e-learning community.

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