Learning & DevelopmentLearning Programs

Microlearning – manageable chunks of accessible knowledge or educational fast food?


Modern learning systems are sometimes associated with fast food because microlearning is often described as knowledge served in manageable chunks or small portions. However, a small portion of knowledge doesn’t mean that its content will disappoint you with its quality. Microlearning is a form of learning based on short, substantial pieces of content transferred by means of state-of-the-art technologies.

What is microlearning?

Microlearning – knowledge in a nutshell – is a method of asynchronous learning used to satisfy specific needs of learners whenever they want. Microlearning is based on short, simple information units, without unnecessary add-ons. They are a form of educational events – brief and goal-oriented, but not limited in time. 

Videos, infographics, podcasts, or posts presenting a synopsis of facts on a given subject help consolidate knowledge, measure performance, or remember something quickly and can be elements of Learning Management Systems

The 2017 ATD report, which analyzed 600 respondents, revealed that 40% of participants indicated that their organizations used microlearning, whereas the other 60% said that they had not taken part in microlearning yet. 

Old or new? Microlearning at your company

Versatile teaching methods help optimize the learning process aimed at the best possible effectiveness. Effectiveness is not just as the effect of memorizing facts but the ability to use the learned knowledge in practice. Microlearning is a new tool as far as modern forms of learning are concerned; however, it is also old, dating back to centuries ago, from the perspective of its conciseness and simplicity. 

In their book Microlearning. Short and Sweet, renowned researchers Karl M. Kapp and Robyn A. Defelice discuss the origins of microlearning and define it as a short, goal-oriented instructional unit, which is not based on an arbitrary time limit but concentrated on the learners’ needs.

To enhance the outcomes, it must be engaging and pro-active. The little nuggets of knowledge can be absorbed by participants any time they wish to. In order to be effective, microlearning must respond to individual needs of the learner and the requirements of the company. It helps detect and develop individual talents and increase their performance.

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The most commonly used tools

Microlearning is becoming more and more popular mainly thanks to the development of online tools and the growing access to the Internet. Modern mobile devices used by everyone to surf the net anywhere are great carriers of information.

Karl M. Kapp and Robyn A. Defelice divide microlearning into six types:

  • sensible,
  • based on outcomes,
  • convincing,
  • post-instructional,
  • based on practice,
  • preparatory.

Microlearning has an impact on the fulfilment of individual needs and requirements. These systems are a part of successful L&D programs in organizations. Its tools must be adapted to the pace and development opportunities of the employees. If there is too little time for upskilling, microlearning onboarding is the best solution. 

What will make microlearning successful at your company?

Snippets of knowledge delivered during the working time must have a specific goal. Videos or infographics whose purpose is unclear will not bring positive results. Simple and clear content in a modern form, aimed at informing, revising, or upskilling, will help employees work more efficiently. Their attitude toward their roles will not be disturbed. 

The leaders’ support is also significant as microlearning needs to be approved by the senior management. Then, the method will prove to be both necessary and effective. The learning process can take as much time as needed. However, it shouldn’t be excessively lengthy or short. The bits and pieces of knowledge transferred through microlearning must be both concrete and complete. Quizzes are not always the best solution. On the other hand, exercises or simulations are great at improving the ability to apply knowledge in practice. You need to adapt microlearning tools to the goal you want to achieve this way. 

Up to 41 of those surveyed by ADT report that access to knowledge at workplace at a suitable time is an important value.

Why is microlearning a good choice?

Microlearning is an effective tool which you can use to boost the development of your employees. A thirty-minute long break at work certainly distracts your employees. What about microlearning in the form of infographics, podcasts, or social media posts? Such elements will attract their attention but they will not disturb them at work.

Microlearning is focused on individuals and it improves the way knowledge is absorbed, which, in turn, increases performance levels. Think of Michael Allen, who emphasized the crucial role of microlearning as early as 15 years ago. Do you want your team members to understand a given subject which will help them perform their upcoming tasks? When designing microlearning programs for particular persons, pay special attention to how the content is related to their future tasks. Microlearning is perfect when you need your employees to hone a skill and use it in real life. Even if you have no time to organize a course, learning can still be effective: quick, succinct, and focused on a particular person. 

So how are fast-food and microlearning similar?

As you can see, the only thing that microlearning has in common with fast food is the performance time: it’s fast. But in the case of L&D, quality is of primary importance. Modern technologies support the development of quick, simple methods of education. If employees follow their social networks, will they have any negative associations with learning when they find some important pieces of information there? If knowledge is presented in an appealing way, and in a nutshell, its attractive form will invite your employees to become familiar with it – they will actually devour it. 

In fact, 15 years ago, the possibilities of microlearning were much smaller than today. These days, employees can have a bite of knowledge during their lunch and coffee break or while they’re commuting – it’s just a couple of minutes. 

The benefits of microlearning for your company

Microeducation is based on diverse, short, pithy doses of knowledge. But when can we say that learning is really micro? In a survey run by ATD Research, 228 respondents were asked about the optimum time span for microlearning. Up to 59% said that two to five minutes is the most effective time length to absorb knowledge in a comprehensive way. 

Microlearning should only present the key pieces of information, without redundant details, digressions, or fillers. An attractive and simple form is the key to effective remembering. Because time is the basic benefit here, the tools you use should satisfy learning needs as quickly as possible. Employees who are always busy can take a short look at a microlearning unit to find out what they really need at a given point. 

The effectiveness of microlearning depends on its coordination with many other methods of learning and development. The possibility of satisfying individual educational needs is crucial here. Learners acquire morsels of knowledge in a quick, precise, and factual manner and the experts say that the maximum time necessary for microlearning is 13 minutes. Will that affect your work organization as badly as a several-hour-long course would? Definitely not!

Microlearning responds to individual needs. It doesn’t disrupt the workflow, neither does it affect productivity in a negative way; in fact, in can improve employee effectiveness in the long term. 

What do you need to have in mind to develop the best company talents and increase the effectiveness of your employees?

Supporting employee learning and development is essential to ensure their effectivity and to increase the profits for the company. People who feel appreciated and supported can identify with the company’s mission and objectives. User-friendly, short forms of knowledge are easy to acquire on the go, as an extra activity which does not require all the attention of the employees or end up disorganizing their work. Employees who treat their career seriously will certainly appreciate new opportunities for development. 

Thanks to the use the latest technologies, microlearning is a great response to the growing scope and need of remote work. After all, infographics can be viewed even when someone is holding a baby in their arms. Combining work with household chores has now become a great challenge for employees, especially those who are parents. Microlearning shows them that they can use short periods of time to build their knowledge in small steps and develop it actually anywhere. 

When the best talents are supported this way, they become loyal to the company and willing to help build its image. Microlearning based on modern technologies does not have any limits. You can use it on a large scale as a tool providing particular employees with an additional source of knowledge and development. Make sure you use it in a way which supports your teams as a whole as well as individual employees.

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