2022 is already a year of change and transition, and it will present new challenges for L&D. Change will be constant, with a steady stream of new practices and standards. This article suggests a way to use microlearning in a way that will facilitate keeping up with these challenges and changes as we emerge into recovery from the pandemic and economic downturn.
Workplace learning will be essential to productivity in 2022 and beyond. Some of the changes will make it difficult to conduct learning in the same way as was previously done in longer instructor-led approaches, whether in a real classroom or a virtual one. In particular, classroom-delivered learning experiences will not be possible by and large for remote employees. If a learning experience design involves instructor-led delivery via two-hour or six-hour (or longer) conference software (webinars), this will not be a match to the remote employees’ needs when they are working from home or from a remote site.
Microlearning, especially mobile microlearning, is ideal for remote/work from home employees during the conditions during economic recovery and transition. Microlearning improves learning retention for employees. It provides faster transfer of skills and knowledge because it blends into the workflow, and in addition the process is less vulnerable to degradation due to interruptions.
Why does microlearning work?
Microlearning is focused on simplicity and efficiency.
- Microlearning is personalized: each employee gets the amount of instruction needed to produce the outcome they are accountable for. There is no lengthy theory or filler content.
- There is one objective for each module of microlearning.
- Microlearning modules are designed to be as short as possible, but as long as needed.
- Microlearning uses interactive content (video, games, simulations) and provides feedback.
- Microlearning is optimized for mobile devices and mobile apps.
Low time commitment
Microlearning demands a low time commitment from the student, and it delivers actionable information in ways that increase knowledge retention, proficiency, and long term behavior change that lecture delivery can’t.
Why “bite-size” chunks?
Content in microlearning comes in chunks that take three to seven minutes (sometimes a little more) to consume.
- This amount, more or less, matches working memory capacity.
- Small chunks are less likely to create cognitive overload for employees.
- Delivery of small chunks makes alternatives possible: interactive video, quizzes, spaced repetition, games, practice.
- Small chunks anchored to real-life situations (as in Clark Aldrich’s “Small Sims”) are quick, efficient, and effective.
The concept has been described as delivering “little chunks, and often”.
Why mobile microlearning?
Apart from the ability for employees to always have learning experiences available from their mobile devices, research reported in the ERIC database says that mobile microlearning provides users with increases in knowledge, certainty in decisions about practical applications, and increased confidence. The same research points out that mobile microlearning can be improved or enhanced with automated feedback, timed gamified exercises, and interactive real-world content.
There are four key things to remember when designing your microlearning application.
- First, “micro” does not have anything in particular to do with the time it takes to complete an experience. Instead, it refers to this guideline: Microlearning modules are designed to be as short as possible, but as long as needed.
- Second, microlearning modules should be pretty granular: one objective per module.
- Third, when designing modules check to be sure the objectives collectively match the needs of your individual employees. Every employee does not need to take the same module(s). Employees only need to take the modules(s) they need in order to produce outcome for which they are accountable.
- Fourth, the point is not that an employee will complete all of every module they are assigned. An employee should complete only as much microlearning as it takes to learn to produce the particular outcome for which they are accountable. The modules work a bit like LEGO bricks. When a learner can produce the model result, the lesson is over.
Try it. You’ll like it, and even better, your employees will like it and the results will probably amaze you. If any of that is not true, talk to your employees early and often, and figure out how to make your remote-employee microlearning work better.