Think about the last time you invested time in learning something through online training. Perhaps your mind has gone back to a course you’ve taken? If so, I think you may be wrong. I’d wager that the last time you engaged with eLearning is by Googling something. Perhaps just in the last hour. Maybe you looked up the definition to a word or the population of a country. You might have looked for product information.

Everyone with internet access rapidly begins using it as their main source of information and small-scale “microlearning”—and we definitely don’t think of it as training. But we do learn facts, operations, procedures, methodologies, and processes.

So, we’re learning, but not through formal training.

We self-engage. We have a gap in our knowledge and undertake the quickest route to close that gap. Perhaps for professional reasons or out of personal curiosity. Perhaps to settle a bet.

In the “real world” we do this every day and don’t think about it. But we do have a methodology that we follow. We look for answers at a particular depth that matches our need.

Learning at the correct depth

It’s time to attack a myth: Heard the one about Millennials only preferring video? Millennials have gotten picked on because they are the first “digital native” generation. They’ve been saddled with a bunch of myths, such as Millennials only want video. I hear this often in the eLearning world.

The truth is that we all (Millennials included) want information. We perform a depth-specific information search to answer an immediate need; it’s less common to search for answers using only one specific medium.

  • If we’re looking for a quick answer, then we may go no farther than Google’s “featured snippet,” which is the top organic content in a Google search result.
  • If we want to go a bit deeper, we look for bullet lists; information packaged this way requires little effort to consume.
  • Need to go deeper still? We may skim through an article.
  • Only if we want to go very deep, or if the knowledge we’re looking for is particularly suited to video, will we commit to watching a video.

We want to be efficient; we want to spend as little time as possible getting answers—the answers we need, without extraneous, time-consuming information.

The perfect search

Here’s a thought: The fact that Google returns more than one result to a query is a bug. The perfect Google experience would be that you type in a query and Google returns you only a single, absolutely perfect result. You never have to refine your search or conduct another one.

Think this is impossible? Amazon, Google, Apple, and other major companies are working hard to deliver us this one perfect answer, sometimes called a “one-shot” answer.

IBM has built its entire Watson division around the premise of providing a perfect answer. (Or, in the case of their Jeopardy win, asking the perfect question.)

Perfect-sized learning

If we live in a world where every major technology company is desperately trying to surface the one right answer to users, why is L&D still doing the opposite?

Many organizations are still intent on locking all their knowledge up into long-form eLearning, using sequential formats and designed to be consumed only once by each learner. These courses are nearly impossible to index and extract knowledge from.

We can deliver digital learning at the perfect size and depth to learners, providing that elusive “one right answer,” using microlearning. Microlearning is the rallying cry of many L&D leaders in the corporate world—those who want to deliver a more “real world” experience to their users.

Instead of large content repositories, break content into discrete chunks, index them, and let users search for knowledge within the corporate knowledge repository. Let learners access the knowledge they need—on demand, and at the depth they require.

Microlearning: Offer one-shot answers

Provide your learners with one-shot answers to their questions. Provide them with bulleted lists and quick summaries. Give them articles and video for deeper learning.

Regardless of your field and what types of training your employees need, let them take control of their learning experience in a way they are already used to doing when they are not at work.

Harness their curiosity; their willingness to search and find the information they need. Then, use analytics to understand what your workforce is consuming, what they are searching for, and what answers they are seeking.

Implement Agile Microlearning, a philosophy that ties in chunked content with adaptive training and drip-delivered learning. Deliver essential knowledge in short daily bursts, using adaptive algorithms that personalize the experience for each learner. And enable learners to search for information on demand, at the level of depth they need.

It’s the twenty-first century: We have fantastic information retrieval tools. Use microlearning techniques to extend that experience to your workforce. Empower employees to keep learning—without thinking of it as training.

Learn more

Join Dan Belhassen and other microlearning leaders at The eLearning Guild’s Microlearning Design Online Conference, September 18–19, 2019. Belhassen will present “Leverage Cognitive Science to Create Engaging Microlearning Experiences.” Learn why just cutting your content into micro units isn’t enough. The conference will explore the use of video, podcasting, PowerPoint, and even voice assistants to create and deploy innovative microlearning solutions. Registration is open.