Actionable Micro-Learning Strategies
You’ve heard the buzzword—microlearning. You’re probably thinking, isn’t it just splitting long-form content into 5-10 minutes chunks? You’re not alone in this misconception. But learners won’t receive the benefits if you try to teach 60 minutes of continuous content in 5 minutes chunks over 12 days. Instead, they’ll receive the information haphazardly because it was originally designed to carefully build on previous concepts. So they’ll either end up confused or misinformed.
It is important to know and understand the workforce because as of 2019, Millennials are projected to number 73 million, overtaking Baby Boomers as the largest living adult generation (25), and by 2025 Millennials alone will make up 75 percent of the workforce (24).
You need to design microlearning modules that will leave learners empowered to do their jobs, while still fitting into the learner’s busy schedule.
People have limited time to engage with content. Also, everyone starts at a different level with each concept. Branching logic as a simplified form of personalized learning allows every eLearning designer to create differentiated learning regardless of the resources at their disposal.
What branching logic does is shows one topic if the learner chooses one answer and another topic if a different answer is chosen. This maximizes the short time that the learner has to devote to learning. To get practice use a survey creator and see what happens when you apply branching logic to a survey.
Inject knowledge over time and remember more
Microlearning facilitates self-directed lifelong learning, as short activities can be easily integrated into everyday activities. Small learning steps with small chunks of information can be used for learning in between and on-demand. In this way microlearning enables individuals to stay up-to-date in today’s knowledge society. Small injections of information to review what was learned helps to reinforce knowledge, and remember.
The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve
Pick the Big Idea
With Micro Learning, you have about 5-10 minutes to make an impact on the learner in a way that is transferrable and can lead to demonstrable changes in behavior. That is a tall task! Whereas in traditional eLearning design, you might have picked 3-4 big ideas to cover in a module, in Micro Learning you need to stick to ONE idea. Use this idea to guide all of the decisions you make with regards to learners and what is important for them to experience in the course.
Allow for Testing Out
Consider creating an assessment at the beginning of the content that is everything you would expect the learner to master at the end. If this test can be mastered, then the learner can move on and choose a different microlearning module.
Memory and Microlearning
In the mid-1880s, Hermann Ebbinghaus became the first person to create a scientific approach to study and classify memory and introduce the world to concepts like the learning curve and forgetting curve. Learning is most applicable, when it is remembered.
The old phrase, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” rings true, but could be improved by saying, “If you don’t use it or review it, you lose it.” With repetition and the passage of time, you can convert a short-term memory into the more resilient, long-term memory. There is a lot of research that suggests Microlearning improves the act of absorbing and using information.
In Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve graph shown above, you can see that when someone first learns something, they retain all of that information. As the days pass, memory retention begins to drop. But as you perpetually review information, you retain more and more information.
Precursor to Longer Learning
Even though Micro Learning is the latest trend in online learning, it does not mean that Macro Learning is no longer needed. Sometimes, Micro Learning should be used in preparation for an annual conference or workshop or as a pre-test before a face-to-face training. This type of design helps to prepare everyone for the conference/training session so that they can maximize their time there.
Similarly, Microlearning can be used after a conference or workshop to follow up on what was discussed in the professional development event. In this case, it should be used as a reflection or as a connection to the workplace to encourage a transformation of actions based on the concepts learned.
Granular Learning Outcomes
This can actually be one of the most challenging aspects of Microlearning design. Whereas before large and abstract learning objectives could be sufficient for assessing learning, that is not enough in Microlearning where there are very targeted outcomes. What was originally one learning objective should be made into 3 or 4 assessable outcomes.
1. How will you measure learning results?
Did they look at the content?
- How long did they look at the content for?
- Did they go back to content?
- Did they skip content?
- Did they complete lessons?
Did they understand the content?
- How did they score on assessments, answer accurately in quizzes
Did they like the content?
- Did they give feedback on their level of satisfaction and application of their new knowledge? What did they like or didn’t like? Why or why not?
Did they transfer their knowledge?
- How are you tracking behavioral change?
- How quickly do you expect to see the changes?
2. How will you analyze learning results?
- What specific learning metrics are you concerned with? Beyond completion and time on site?
- Can you identify learning patterns that lead to positive and negative business outcomes?
3. How will you measure business results?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- How do they measure training success?
- What specific KPIs do they want to influence?
- Do you have an agreed upon ROI model to understand the impact that learning had on those results?
- Can you correlate learning behaviors to business outcomes?
4. How will you adjust content based on results and feedback?
- Can you identify patterns that explain if you have high quality content or not (i.e everyone answering the same question incorrectly may prompt you to audit the content to ensure that the question is worded properly, that the answer is actually in the preceding content, etc.)
- Does one modality have a greater adoption than others? (i.e. if video gets better engagement than slide decks, maybe invest more in videos and spend less time creating decks)
What retrieval practices will you use to reinforce the learning?
- Are you achieving the desired, measurable behavioral change that the content was intended to create?
5. How will you scale?
- Do you have the technology to scale?
- How will you personalize content further?
- Will you use recommendations?
- Will you use AI / Chatbots?
- Will you allow for learner collaboration to create personal connections with team members/co-workers?
- What are your challenges?
Microlearning Best Practices Checklist
1. Microlearning content aligns with business goals
Your learning strategy should be aligned with the overall business goals of the company. Microlearning chunks should build to a greater and applicable initiative.
2. Production quality is superior
Everyone can create content, but not everyone has the ability to make quality content and maintain quality over time. Use high-quality assets like video, audio, and design.
3. Keep Microlearning videos short, targeted and lean
Microlearning’s strength is in short and targeted messaging. The longer the video becomes, the more difficult it becomes to utilize while on the go. Keep microlearning videos no more than 10 minutes per each learning objective.
4. Demonstrate knowledge in a variety of ways
Follow up content with multiple choice questions, but also a demonstration of knowledge.
5. Access anytime on any device
Give users the option to learn on their mobile devices, at any time of day. Give people the flexibility to learn when they want, how they want, online or offline.
6. Create a social learning environment
Give users the opportunity to review and create their own content, create discussion boards, etc. Use feedback to improve content.