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5 Questions about microlearning — and their answers

Microlearning is on everybody’s lips these days. It’s probably the latest in terms of effective learning – as efficiency has an important time component and a nugget usually varies between three and six minutes. The small units can either be connected or stand alone and are accessible to anyone at any time, ideally on multiple devices (laptop, tablet, smartphone). They can be part of formal training or kept in a repository ready to be browsed through informally by anyone who is interested in a subject or needs specific information at a time.

5 Questions about microlearning — and their answers

Even though everyone's talking about microlearning — or precisely because of that — discussions often get to contradictory terms. So here are five questions about microlearning and their corresponding answers. I hope they're all as clear as possible.

  1. Isn’t it easier just to have regular e-learning courses with a browse option?

    Well, most e-learning courses do have a browsing option and it is definitely very useful. However, whereas microlearning units have a set objective fully displayed in the content, e-learning chapters usually rely on each other and make sense if one is familiar with the previous content or storyline.

    While this type of interconnectedness is wonderful when one is going through the entire material while completing a full course, it’s certainly not the optimal solution for a timely review. Forcing the learner to follow the whole thread in order to understand the part that is of interest turns micro into macro and defeats the purpose.

    Accessibility issues occur a lot less in microlearning than they do in full e-learning courses. Since they are small units standing alone, it’s easier to design them in such a way as to be compatible will all sorts of devices.

    Adult learners cherish flexibility and autonomy. Going home after a full day at the office in front of a laptop, they are not particularly keen on using the same type of screen. Furthermore, if they are going to learn something after a hard day’s work it had better be quick, easy and as fun as possible.

  2. Why should businesses chose microlearning?

    Millennials make up most of today’s workforce. Traditional classroom training, workshops and heavy manuals are no longer the preferred ways to learn. This generation was raised on technology and deeply cherishes autonomy and choices.

    Gathering a bunch of millennials and keeping them in a room for a couple of days with set breaks, numerous learning goals and boring power-point presentations will manage to frustrate them and only teach them that it’s the sort of experience they never want to repeat.

    The fact that they are able to access the learning nuggets when they want and from where they feel like it will give them both a sense of control and one of responsibility. This will have a great positive impact on their attitude and morale leading to a positive workplace culture.

  3. Does this mean that traditional learning goes out the window?

    No, it doesn’t. And trainers should also not be worried about their position within the company either.

    All the learning materials that a company has are still very valuable; they just need to be converted into units that are more entertaining and easily to digest. Instead of having one big induction day when new employees arrive (and having to wait until you have enough newcomers to be worth the intervention) some short, easily accessible nuggets with the most important information will do the job marvelously.

    The old PDFs can act as starting scenarios for concise video materials providing the same valuable information. You don’t need to assemble a full group in a conference room to project these videos as modern technology allows for such material to be accessed via mobile phone at the user’s convenience. And allowing employees to learn at their own convenience can only lead to empowered people who will feel they are important and trusted.

  4. How will the L&D department keep track of the corporate learning?

    A good LMS platform will do a great job of that. It’s easy to embed the video or e-learning content with quick quizzes, the responses to which can be stored on the platform and be used to generate comprehensive reports later on.

    Furthermore, a good LMS can help you identify talent, construct learning paths for groups of users or individual employees and get a good idea about what the main areas of interest are so you can generate more content to fulfill those needs.

    This sort of platform will also enable users to give feed-back about the learning material and the way in which it is being delivered.

  5. Is it beneficial for the organization?

    Now that is a silly question. Of course it is. Empowered employees and engaged employees. We live in an era when time is more precious than ever before and nobody wants to waste it.

    Microlearning is also cost-effective, allows for quick updates of the material and is in line with the general browsing habits of the employee outside the workplace. Everybody uses search engines to find out information they need, from world capitals to the recipe for apple pie.

    Also, short videos are preferred. Four times more consumers would rather watch a demo for a product than read about it. So if you have people who need to go through the safety information on their first day on the job, how do you think they’d rather go about it?


What other questions do you have about microlearning and its use in training programs? Do share them in the comments section below and I'll do my best to answer them all.

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