Author: Denise Meyerson
CEO of The Focus Learning Group / a Multi-Award Winning Training Company / Telstra Business Women’s Awards Finalist
Who would have thought a few years ago that micro learning would find a place in the full spectrum of a learning strategy. And yet, here we are, seeing the huge benefits of structuring learning in a different and exciting way so that users learn more effectively.
Before we even look at what is meant by micro learning and what makes it great – and what doesn’t – let’s take a moment to consider why we should even bother with micro at all.
We see two opposite ends of the spectrum – those who believe that micro is the answer to all learning design challenges as a way of ensuring that users gain critical skills, when they need them most in a format that appeals to them. And then there are those who are opposed to the whole concept because after all, how can you reduce learning to such short bites.
Let’s have a look at why I remain a firm believer in what micro learning has to offer – and also am more than willing to admit that there are cases where macro is indeed the best option:
1. Micro works best where the demand is immediate and the need is specific.
If the learning is too complex, too detailed and made up of long and deep tranches of knowledge, skip Micro because it is simply not appropriate. If I think of some of our nationally recognised qualification programs which are long, intensive and designed for delivery over a period of time, micro could never fit in with this requirement. People often want to receive some form of credit for what they have done.
2. Is microlearning effective?
There are numerous situations where micro is just an incredibly powerful way of bringing about rapid changes in behaviour and knowledge.
I am thinking here of skills that are needed immediately as new systems and processes are initiated. I am referring to onboarding where an overload of information is just not recalled at a later point. I am giving a call out to compliance training which needs a huge wake-up call and doesn’t require hours of painful clickety-click learning where no one seems to recall a single thing after the elearning session. Be honest – own up anyone who remembers what they learnt in one of those elearning programs..
3. Where Micro comes to the fore:
- It’s great where performance support is needed as new ways of doing business are introduced. I am thinking of the numerous times we have arrived at an airline check-in counter only to find that the ground staff are new and run around asking someone more experienced how to complete certain more complicated functions. Imagine being able to look this up quickly and follow the instructions.
- Micro fits really well when we need the information and we need it now, not after we have spent months on end planning an intricate roll-out. As the great Josh Bersin puts it, “We’re trying to get people to learn what they need to learn as fast as they possibly can, and go back to work.” (FutureCast webinar, 2018)
4. Let's be clear though on what Micro is NOT -
- It is not a longer elearning piece that clicks along, Powerpoint on steroids style, that suddenly emerges as 4 or 5 x 10 minute pieces. That is indeed a whole lot better than a 50 minute slog – but that does not capture the endless possibilities of what micro can bring to learning!
- It is not a haphazard collection of random learning pieces that are re-named as micro without due thought given to how the learning outcomes are being addressed. An example would be an older style induction process over a few days that returns as a version of micro because it is now spread out over a few weeks – but still has no real impact at all.
- If it takes months on end to develop – it’s not a micro solution which is fast in development and agile in deployment. It is truly aimed at learning on demand…
5. To identify micro that is great, look out for these features -
- It includes a wide range of options and micro learning platforms that include specifically filmed video, video links to outside sites, animations of key concepts, infographics to capture main messages that can also be used as job aids, links to further reading to satisfy the theorists and information packaged in a way that takes 2 – 6 minutes to absorb. Why constrain ourselves to a single elearning platform?
- The knowledge has been converted in to different formats so that it pulls learners inand drives them to ask more and seek more information. Questions in quizzes are not easy to answer immediately and aren’t the basic tick the box, multiple choice style with an obvious answer thrown in for good measure.
- Users can dip in and out of the learning with a user friendly search function that enables them to find what they need to know or review. And reviewing is part of the embedding process. Repetition helps drive retention far higher. And the huge benefit is that this repetition can happen in a more informal way through ongoing development of micro learning pieces.
- Finally, we need to acknowledge that people don’t really have the ability to test out their skills – until they have to do so on the job, in a real working context. That’s why micro is so useful in terms of ensuring that learning is constantly relevant to people’s jobs, their roles, their projects and their careers. Micro therefore implies that you are constantly developing based on the data you are receiving and the insights you derive from that data.
After all, is micro learning effective? Isn’t learning one of the most important things that anyone does in your organisation? We are constantly involved in new projects. New people are being on-boarded for new initiatives. The business is moving rapidly forward in to territories that are not always known. The learning curve is constant and we cannot afford to allow anyone to slip behind to maintain our competitive edge.