Microlearning: Training for a new generation of learners

L&D in small units makes for more effective eLearning courses

Microlearning is by no means a new concept to learning and development professionals, however, it is rapidly becoming the ideal method to train today’s connected learners in the corporate training environment. A traditional linear and rigid course model with lengthy lectures is no longer the most effective method to encourage a collaborative experience between developers and learners.

This favorable shift to incorporating elements of microlearning in eLearning course designs is industry-wide, even off-the-shelf courseware providers are moving in this direction. As an example, let’s say you want to learn how to use a pivot table in Excel. Traditionally, you would have been offered a three-hour Excel course. But now, you can learn exactly what you need with a six-minute (or less) course specifically tailored to using an Excel pivot table, delivered on demand via your preferred LMS or training platform. Why are we returning to microlearning with such enthusiasm? Well, when trying to train and educate a technologically-inclined generation of learners, it is easy to bring out their best when they can quickly access and process smaller bits of information in their eLearning courses.

So what exactly is microlearning? As defined by Wikipedia, “microlearning deals with relatively small learning units and short-term learning activities… the term refers to micro-perspectives in the context of learning, education, and training.” In an eLearning context, this means to teach and deliver your content in small, very precise bursts of information (usually 3 to 5 minutes in length).

Learning in short bursts (also referred to as chunks or nuggets) can be very effective when it comes to introducing an idea, developing a skill, or teaching a behavior or task. Pair microlearning techniques with delivery on a mobile device, and you’ve just created on-demand training; learners can access your course material when and where they need it most. This ease and flexibility in learning is not possible with classroom training or a more traditional method of eLearning.

There are several advantages for both trainers and learners to utilize a microlearning format in their eLearning course design:

For trainers:

  • Microlearning’s ease of flexibility and accessibility (i.e. delivery via mobile devices) has the potential to dramatically influence when and where people are learning; facilitate on-demand learning and increase the impact of your course.
  • A shorter training initiative typically warrants a shorter development period and therefore (potentially) lower development costs – deployment is also usually much faster when compared to more traditional eLearning course designs.
  • Far-reaching application for a concise course: can be used as a single, standalone asset or as a part of a bigger training initiative.
  • Easier to modify course information (as needed) because of a lack of complexity in the overall design.

For learners:

  • Flexibility in delivery allows for learners to more easily match their unique learning styles on the device of their choosing.
  • Delivery via mobile devices allows for learners to access training at the precise moment that it is needed.
  • Teaching a change in behavior or teaching a skill is much more effective when it is presented in a course design that is precise and has a clearly defined outcome
  • Microlearning courses typically utilize multimedia (graphics, animation, narration etc.) and exercises (quizzes, gamification, etc.) to improve efficiency. In our experience, we have found that incorporating these elements into your course design will have a positive impact on a learner’s ability to retain the information