Microlearning isn't a brand new concept. If you've ever read a few pages of a book while waiting in a long line at the grocery store or tuned in to a language vocabulary course while stuck in traffic, you probably already know some of the basic benefits of microlearning. But where this long-honored learning technique is finding new acceptance, is in the workplace. In this post, learn what some of microlearning's key benefits are, and some steps to make it work in your workplace.
But what is microlearning? Microlearning can be thought of as 'brief lessons.' By breaking down big learning modules into small chunks offered a bit at a time, it is possible to make time for learning even for students with a limited attention span or a very busy schedule.
The Benefits of Microlearning
Microlearning's benefits continue to reveal themselves as the workforce experiments with this new learning trend. Here are some of the most prominent, exciting benefits:
- Workers can learn while doing their job, incorporating lessons into their day with a few minutes here and there.
- Managers no longer have to sacrifice personnel for whole days of training away from the office.
- Lessons offered in small chunks are easier to remember and put to use.
- Remote or virtual workers can participate via video and web tools.
- Microlearning is an 'on demand' learning style, similar to the online coursework that is popular for college students today.
- Microlearning meets people where they are, offering timely updates that build on what workers already know.
7 Steps to Making Microlearning Work'
While microlearning offers tremendous potential for providing proficiency training on demand to an increasingly diverse and scattered global workforce, it can take some finagling to figure out how to make it work well.
Some businesses resort to hiring professional training companies to handle the particulars of creating effective microlearning and elearning courses. But for those who are determined to make things work internally with no outside help, these 7 steps can help:
Step 1: Use microlearning to build on lessons previously mastered.
If your goal is to teach your workers how to do something they've never done before, microlearning probably isn't going to get you there. But if you are striving to keep your employees' knowledge up to date and fresh, microlearning can be ideal.
Step 2: Strive to offer simple lessons.
Because microlearning is offered in short bursts on demand or to a group of workers as time permits, it is not an ideal format for complex concepts or lessons with many steps. Rather, microlearning is ideal to teach one step, or one lesson, and teach it well with high retention levels.
Step 3: Make the lesson practical to each employee's current role.
The beauty of microlearning is that it is cheap and easy to produce and administer and thus highly customizable. If a major software update comes out today, a microlearning module can be produced and offered tomorrow to keep workers up to date.
In that way, microlearning is not the right medium to introduce broad-brush corporate strategy changes or whole-industry updates. But it is just perfect to reach employees where they are in the job they are presently doing with timely skills updates.
Step 4: Offer rather than force.
Because microlearning is designed to make small lessons accessible to employees who want and need them, some companies have determined the short modules are better received if they are made optional rather than mandatory.
By offering incentives for module completion and recognition for skills-building, employees are more likely to embrace microlearning rather than resent it as "just one more thing" added to their daily to-do list.
Step 5: Keep lessons hands-on.
Another new trend known as enterprise gamification is a perfect fit with this step. Gamification makes learning more fun by creating game-like learning tools to teach new skills.
In the place where gamification and microlearning meet, huge potential exists for employee engagement. In other words, now, rather than sneaking a sanity-restoring 5-minute game of Candy Crush on their personal phones, employees can now enjoy a fun game-type learning experience via microlearning modules and get rewarded and recognized for their efforts.
Step 6: Use smart structure to develop microlearning lessons.
With microlearning, lessons are necessarily brief. While there are plenty of opportunities to use different learning tools within the context of each lesson, the lessons themselves need to be structured to eliminate all possibility of confusion about what is being learned.
Here is a sample structure for a module:
- Title. Clearly describe exactly what the lesson is about to teach.
- Body. Video or infographics are great aids to offering a concept to ponder and an action item to personalize that concept to the employee's job.
- Evaluation. With 2 questions max, ask the learner if the lesson was clear and useful.
Step 7: Incorporate social learning tools.
If your workers are already using a tool like Slack, it will be easy to incorporate social learning as a motivation to engage additional employees in microlearning modules.
As with any new offering, it is often best to start small and simple, perhaps testing the modules on a select group of highly motivated employees and gaining feedback to tailor the lessons perfectly to the needs of the greater workforce. With patience, creativity and training, your workforce can improve their skills with the help of microlearning tools.