How eLearning and Microlearning Work Together (and Apart) to Create Better Learning Opportunities
Do you have enough hours in the week for all the learning you need? OK, trick question. Of course you don’t. Nobody does. As a result, we have a training gap in our busy work week. And because of that, microlearning offers a promise for many to help fill that gap.
Part of the Game Plan
Microlearning can play an important role in the overall learning and development plan for your organization. It fills a very important hole created by the changes in the way we work, our schedules, and growing needs for more real-time knowledge. Yet it is also vital to remember that it is not intended to be, and never will be, the entire learning plan. That perspective ensures success with its implementation.
Micro vs Macro
In college we had to take two courses on economics. Macroeconomics was the study of the big picture or large scale economics: regions, countries, and even globally. On the other side, microeconomics concerned the actions and decisions of individuals and the impact on the economy. In other words, small scale economics.
Microlearning, along the same lines, is concerned with providing learning opportunities in small segments. The idea is partially based on some predictions made by industry experts. It is also based on at least some scientific research and a few basic facts.
First, let’s start some basic facts from both demographic and scientific research.
- According to Bersin by Deloitte, by 2025 approximately 75% of the workforce will be millennials.
- It’s well known (or is it?) that our attention spans are getting shorter.
- Also according to Bersin by Deloitte, today’s employee has only 1% of their workweek available to focus on training and development. That’s 24 minutes out of a 40-60 hour workweek.
- Somewhat recent research suggests that we learn better in short, intense bursts of information.
We are overwhelmed, distracted, and more than a little frustrated that we don’t have enough hours to get everything done that needs to get done. We have less attention to give and less time in which to give it. We remember less of what we learn. Therefore it is not available to us when we really need it. And that’s where microlearning comes in.
Elements of Good Microlearning
First, microlearning needs to be given in short bursts. Remember that statistic about having only ~24 minutes a week available? Now divide that by five. What you come up with is just a little over four minutes a day. That’s about the right average length of a session.
Partially because of the time span a session should laser focus on a very precise topic. Creating a session on how to write an effective business email would be too much subject matter with too many factors to fit into a microlearning session. Yet a creating a quick lesson on salutations would probably work.
It was advances in technology that made microlearning possible to begin with. So it makes perfect sense that any solution we come up with must include technology. Most of the microlearning we see being implemented today is primarily video. However, you could also create electronic flashcards, podcasts, and serious games.
What Microlearning Doesn’t Do
Doesn’t meet the need for big picture learning
Short bursts of information are great for what you need to know right now. However it doesn’t fit the need very well for understanding the “macro” of the subject matter. When you need to understand more than just how to add a salutation of an email, a short session won’t do. In the big picture, you want to learn how to create the entire email. You need to understand the overall strategy of writing emails – purpose and implementation. That’s when you need Instructor-led training or an eLearning course.
No Deep Dives
How do you choose the right salutation? What goes into writing good body content? Which sign off is most appropriate? Who should I copy on the email? When am I better off communicating a different way?
The more in-depth you need to go into a subject, the less appropriate a microlearning session would be.
Doesn’t provide long term results
These short bursts of information are great for something someone needs to be able to do right now. It doesn’t always lend itself to long-term knowledge retention. It’s designed to fill a “right now” need, not solve long-term problems. It’s a band-aid, not a cure.
Benefits of Microlearning
Fits well with the technology we use
We are spending more and more time on our smartphones and tablets. The short bursts of video, flashcard apps, and other methods of microlearning delivery are ideally delivered through these media.
Also fits well with the way we learn
As mentioned earlier, we tend to learn best when content is delivered in quick short chunks. We can more readily digest it before the next nugget comes along. These micro sessions do just that.
Can be used in the “gaps” in our schedule
Think about something that be delivered during the drive to work. Or in the brief moments before a meeting. We can make more use of “down time” via these brief sessions.
Quick Tips for Working Your eLearning and Microlearning Together
The first way you may want to consider implementing microlearning would be by taking specific topics of your eLearning courses and breaking them out into a stand alone session. It should make for a quick and easy way to get started. Look at the topics that your learners ask the most questions about or need the most help with. Those are the ones to start with.
Secondly, look at some of the supplemental content you provide. For example, if you have safety tips in a quick reference guide for certain jobs or tasks, why not create a quick video that illustrates the correct techniques for observing safety behaviors?
Finally, look at using some of your more experienced employees to feature their particular expertise or knowledge set and develop some micro sessions. Make sure good instructional design principles are used. It still matters.