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Micro and macro learning: a match made in L&D Heaven

Talking about learning in today’s corporate environment, even before 2020, has mostly been about microlearning. I’ve personally advocated for microlearning because the modern learner is digital-savvy and used to finding things out on request. There’s no need to remember facts or figures just because they might be handy at a later time.

Furthermore, companies need to move fast as even reskilling employees must happen when necessary. Extended training programs, whether classroom-based or online, don’t seem just as effective anymore. Not to mention that training that lasts for days disrupts regular work routines and takes precious time that's typically dedicated to important tasks.

Read more: What you need to know about right-skilling employees

Abe had a point

As Abraham Lincoln said,

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

His words illustrate a universal truth – it can take a lot less time, and you can be more effective if you know what you're doing and have the proper tools. Sometimes a quick tutorial or chunk of information is not enough. It can lead
to frequent interruptions to find out more and go back to redo things.

Macro learning is not with Abe

Unlike the famous president who met his untimely end at the theatre, macro learning is merely set somewhere in the background. Micro learning and all its perks are innovative and, in the views of some, revolutionary, but they don't represent a truly bloody revolution. Micro learning is the new cool kid in town, but there’s still a lot left for good old macro learning.

Think of it this way: would you trust a doctor who completed a few online modules on surgery? Or, would you trust someone who spent years and years of practice? I bet you’d go with the second option anytime.

Combining the methods

Now let me ask you this: would you trust a doctor who, after graduating decades ago, did not bother to keep up with the changes? If you did, you’d risk getting treatments or procedures that are no longer the norm or, worse, are ineffective. Luckily for us all, physicians are smart individuals who constantly learn because they know how fast their field advances each year.

Consequently, this is precisely how it should be in the world of corporate learning as well. Yes, employees can learn some things in five minutes. For example, they can learn a new way to connect to the company’s VPN. End-users don’t need an extensive course in what VPN is and how it ensures data security. However, training is a must whenever the company rolls out a new process.

Read more: How to keep your company data safe while working remotely

Sometimes learning needs more time

Continuing with my VPN example, the company can offer a comprehensive course to the IT support team.

The module can start with a short informative video about how to connect will be helpful in the first step of troubleshooting. Later on, the IT team will have to dig deeper and understand what they find there. In this case, the best approach combines a comprehensive course with theory, examples, print screens ,and subject matter experts’ interventions. Instructional designers can add occasional micro modules to refresh some of the information and give a heads up about new developments.

Macro doesn't equal boring, and micro doesn't equal shallow

Since the terms macro and micro are antonyms, when people apply them to learning, they tend to think that these two are at odds with each other. You can either have the obsolete classroom courses or the new, innovative, digitally immersive micro learning modules in organizational contexts.

Newsflash: extensive courses can be engaging and immersive, and micro learning modules can only promise not to bore the learner too bad since they're short enough.

As always, find the middle ground. When needed, allow time and resources for micro learning and then enhance its benefits by adding micro learning interventions at decent intervals.

Read more: Overcoming the forgetting curve in training courses

Closing thoughts

Organizational L&D has been put to the test more than once in the past year and a half. Learning specialists often had to move quickly, and that only left time for short interventions, which were focused on essential information or skills and accessibility. Now, it’s time to take a deep breath and start designing learning paths that are not targeted at avoiding events or getting over hurdles but building competencies and improving results. That goal requires a balanced blend of macro and micro learning.

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