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Microlearning is Here to Stay

Published Mon Mar 01 2021

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Microlearning is Here to Stay

It feels like not long ago that microlearning burst onto the learning and development (L&D) scene as the shiny new trend that everyone was buzzing about. It was one of those buzzwords that would either make ears perk up or eyes roll. But Microlearning is not new. In fact, it started it’s eLearning journey in the mid 1990s. When we were all soaking up our weekly dose of “Friends” and “Fresh Prince of BelAir” the internet was transforming the way we consumed knowledge. While skeptics may feel it waters down content or cuts corners, when architected with a thoughtful approach, it is the new pinnacle of engaging learning today. So while some thought it was just a fad (think Pogs…extra points if you remember what those were) it is fast becoming a staple of training programs. Don’t believe me? Check out these 4 reasons why I believe microlearning is here to stay.

Physical and Learning Style Demands

We have to meet the learners where they are, both physically and in how they prefer to consume information:

● Physical: Work looks different today. We are not all sitting in the same office, in the same city, in the same time zone. We live in a fast pace, “work from anywhere” world and this is changing the “how” and “where” of the learning world.

● Social Media: On a daily basis humans are interacting with Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube…the list goes on. These interactions allow us to take in information and learn. It is how we process information today. In short, targeted and engaging bursts of content, often as distractions from our day to day routine.

All of this coupled with an ever changing and fast paced work life means attention spans are becoming shorter. Our learning needs to be able to fit in those spaces.

Just In Time Learning

How often do you take training on a certain subject only to forget what you learned because it can be days, weeks or months before you actually apply the learning? Just in Time (JIT) learning answers this age old problem. We are training individuals on skills they may not need yet.

● Provide the content a learner needs right when they need it. Available to search up or organized in an easily discoverable way, it allows learners to consume digestible micro learning for targeted skills. Think reference manual vs. owner’s manual.

● Not all content is JIT learning so developing a strong strategy for what would be considered base knowledge and what will be needed for JIT learning is an important part of the development phase.

Retention

When is the last time that you watched a 45 minute compliance video once and remembered everything it was teaching? Learning science shows that smaller, digestible pieces of content paired with spaced repetition and the ability to apply these concepts greatly increases knowledge retention. Why? Because the small, chunked content paired with the repetition over time stores the concepts in long term memory. Keep these best practices in mind to achieve higher rates of retention:

● Targeted Content: Chunk concepts into targeted topics teaching 1 to 2 skills at a time.

● Spaced Repetition: concepts are shown in multiple instances over time to provide the learner with multiple opportunities to engage with it, learn it, and imprint on their mind.

● Application: The ability for a learner to apply the chunked concepts is where the true learning takes place and the neural pathways are built.

Tailored Training

You rarely have learners coming into programs all at the exact same level of knowledge. How about clients that want the very same learning path as the one you just implemented last week? Microlearning allows you to create modularized training that can be tailored for your audience.

● Tailored training can feel customized by using the modular building blocks to create a learning journey to specific job roles or skill sets.

● You can productize this training for clients or partners by using the same content but customizing the modules they get in their path…like an a la carte menu for training. This “custom” experience brings high value without the overhead.

● Having a single source authoring tool that can allow you to create these pieces of microlearning, updating the content in one place and it changing anywhere it is used is key. I recommend using a solution such as MadCap Flare for this type of authoring as a best in class option. Companies like Nestlé and Amazon are leveraging Flare’s content reuse capabilities to streamline learning and development programs.

About the Author

Andrea Maliska is an award-winning learning and development leader with over fifteen years of experience across multiple industries. She currently owns her own eLearning consulting company, Rebel Learn.

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