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10 Advantages of microlearning in online training

In every story that involves a witch, at some point that witch makes a magic potion — either for poisoning or for healing the hero of the story. And while beetle toes, eyes of newt or fairy wings were rather ordinary ingredients, the potion always needed one key thing to reach its poisoning/healing potential: one single drop of a secret ingredient that was kept in the smallest of the bottles the witch ever owned. One drop would make the difference.

Of course, L&D professionals are definitely not witches and they don’t make magic potions on a daily basis. But they need to create effective training solutions, and that is kind of the same thing — only maybe more complicated because these have to offer trainees the heal of knowledge. Always.

Their beetle toes, eyes of newt or fairy wings are learning management systems, subject matter experts, sound content design, or any other thing that is considered a basic requirement for training courses, online or not. But what could be the equivalent of the secret drop from the small bottle?

If drop and small were not enough clues, here’s an obvious answer: microlearning.

10 Advantages of microlearning

Just because something is small it doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. A drop of learning wrapped in a small training package can have a huge positive impact on employee productivity — which is the main reason training was invented in the first place.

Of course microlearning is not the perfect solution to every training challenge, but this is the subject for a different post. This one is about the pluses. So let’s focus on 10 positive aspects of microlearning that might convince you to add it to your training potion:

  1. Microlearning is all about the learner

    Each trainee gets more agency over their learning process. Adding microlearning in training is actually a big step towards the learner-centered approach to professional education. The trainee can decide, which topic to learn, when to do it, on which device, or how long to spend on learning. When people are the masters of their own learning path, instead of showing up at a time and place that is rarely most convenient for them, they show increased retention rates.

  2. Microlearning supports just-in-time learning

    The best training program delivers the right piece of information to the right trainee at the right time, over and over again. When an employee is stuck with something about their working task but is able to immediately locate the piece of training they most need, they’ll apply what they learn then and there and will remember it better in the future. That’s just-in-time learning and microlearning helps it happen.

  3. Microlearning is quick to build

    A complex training course needs a lot of resources, including but not limited to: instructional designers, subject matter experts, a lot of research and planning, content creation and/or adaptation, graphic design, maybe videographers, and so on. Compare that to a microlearning module and of course it’s way more easier and quicker to build.

  4. Microlearning is bite-sized

    Considering the small attention span humans have — of maximum 20 minutes at a time — and knowing that nobody can reach top performance for hours on end because of the many interruptions that happen in the workplace, delivering training in bite-sized modules is actually a great idea. Manageable chunks of information are better than long presentations, no matter how absorbed trainees are in their learning.

  5. Microlearning is fun

    Because it’s short. Because no training material of 50 or more pages, maybe printed, all in text or with cumbersome graphics ever is. There can be all sorts of interactive and multimedia content, gamified elements or more advanced tech involved, which increase engagement from the part of learners and make learning stick. Many serious subjects can be covered and delivered in a memorable way if there’s an aspect of fun in them.

  6. Microlearning is diverse

    There is no one best way to reach a learning goal. Employees are different and the learn differently, so training materials should cover different types of content and learning strategies. Microlearning can get the form of a short video, of a game, of a story — they sky's the limit, really; instructional designers creating microlearning courses can include in it any form of content.

  7. Microlearning is great for mobiles

    With growing numbers of smartphones in the workplace, and the expectation of being able to use them for work of more and more employees, training programs need to become mobile friendly. Since microlearning is small and to the point, it should be accessed when it’s more convenient for trainees, on the devices they always use — their smartphones. Responsive design and a mobile-first approach helps trainees take their learning in their pockets.

  8. Microlearning enables RLOs

    This one will surely be a favorite of our friend Graham Hall, a promoter of Reusable Learning Objects. Basically, you create it once and then you reuse it and adapt it over and over, for as long as you need. That is not only a time saver, but it also gives a sense of familiarity for learners, helping them create new associations between concepts easier.

  9. Microlearning is best for the basics

    You know, the ABCs and 123s of working with other people. Like compliance training. Or fire safety. Or how to change the paper in the printer. Or how to do the basic tasks of any job in any department. There are details and depth to the latter, but microlearning is best for induction training and cornerstone content. And employees can come back to that content as many times they need, for as long as necessary.

  10. Microlearning is acting in the moment

    Right now. Instant gratification. Long-term objectives of professional development for employees are necessary and useful. But microlearning is best for solving short-term issues immediately — and that is also necessary and useful, especially when the company profits depend on it directly. Being able to access micro-training materials and provide the best answer can be very useful for employee productivity.

Stay tuned!

These ten advantages of microlearning tried to make the case for including it in more training programs. Microlearning can really turn out to be the secret drop from the smallest of the bottles that makes the training potion magic and give trainees the heal of knowledge.

But potions can be poisonous too, and if you read carefully between the lines, microlearning comes with traps and drawbacks as well. A post in the not so distant future will cast a light over the negative aspects of microlearning as well.

So stay tuned!

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