In an earlier article, I showcased a microlearning product and highlighted how the microlearning design principles were at play, but what I did not discuss was a key bridging element between setting goals and actually designing a product. Because we are dealing in performance-based microlearning, each campaign and product will have its own purpose and potential (P&P).

The P&P are not derived from the organization’s definition but by the goals of the campaign itself. Doing this step of defining campaign goals and extracting the P&P serves two purposes: It helps to keep alignment as you move to determining the microlearning products in the campaign. And it helps to determine the type of outcomes and actions to elicit from the participants.

So how do goals inform the P&P? Performance Pathways (Purpose) and Use Cases (Potential) provide opportunity to think through the alignment to a campaign goal while preparing for the design of the microlearning products.

Purpose: Performance pathways

When reviewing the goals and evaluative measures developed for your microlearning campaign, you need to determine whether some or all of your audience needs to have a skill, competency, behavior, or attitude:

  • Enhanced? You are seeking to Augment their performance.
  • Redressed? Your audience requires Remediation of their performance.
  • Supported? You want to Reinforce their performance.
  • Solidified? You want to Supplement initial learning with focused resources targeting specific performance scenarios.

The best approach is a single microlearning campaign that addresses all four pathways and audiences. But there is no requirement to use all four; your purpose may use any combination of the four, so long as it answers:

  • What focus will the campaign have to best serve performance of the participants?
  • Which audience will get this pathway and why?

Now that we have highlighted the purpose, we can determine how it drives the potential impact of the campaign. To do that we have six use case types to guide us!

Potential: 6 use cases

The design of your microlearning campaign and its products are responsible for progressing toward goals you have defined. This entails making decisions and determining if the goals or evaluative measures will require data from activities or actions that demonstrate/provide:

  • Stronger awareness? These require Pensive elements in your design. For example, Have you done this before? How does your plan align to the expected plan? Do you think they handled the situation using the right policies?
  • Support in the moment? This leads you to a Performance-focused design. While often conflated with JIT (just-in-time) training, these are often designed differently and cover more than one objective, whereas a microlearning product covers a single objective.
  • Insight into the modification of behaviors and attitudes? The use case here is Persuasive. This differs from Pensive, which deals in self-reflection. Persuasive is very much about a means to change behavior, mindset, or attitude.
  • A way to reinforce or perpetuate performance after a larger learning or training engagement? The Post-Instruction use case is an excellent way to carry forward salient points from training in the LMS or workshops and facilitated programs.
  • Opportunities to hone, refine, or develop skills, attitudes, and/or behaviors? The Practice-based use case does this with real-time or timely feedback, mentoring, or coaching.
  • A way to equalize participants prior to attending a larger event or engaging in an activity? This means you are choosing a Preparatory approach to level-set all participants.

The six use cases (6P’s) can be intermingled at the campaign and product level. For example, a Post-Instruction campaign may use Pensive and Practice products. To help in thinking through the 6P’s for developing performance-based microlearning, determine:

  • The primary reason for the campaign. Examples might include get learners reflecting, help them adapt to a new culture, ensure everyone has equal understanding, etc. Are there secondary or tertiary uses?
  • How the selected use case(s) support the goals and evaluative measures.

Putting it together

What might it look like when you put the Purpose and Potential together in designing a campaign? Let’s use a common subject, onboarding new hires, and play out purpose and potential.

Let’s say that your organization has been rigorously hiring; currently, over 50 employees are between Day 1 and Day 120. The goal of the campaign is to show that new hires demonstrate behaviors and attitudes that support the organization’s culture. The organization used a microlearning campaign during onboarding for these purposes:

  • Augmentation/Preparatory Campaign– Day 1—new hires need their current knowledge enhanced and level-set prior to taking on the major tasks and responsibilities of their job roles. Providing equal understanding of the expected behaviors and attitudes and how they fit to the organization’s culture is critical for framing the job for the new hire.
  • Reinforcement/Post-Instruction Campaign – New hires, post-onboarding, need to have certain behaviors and attitudes supported as they continue to learn their job roles and responsibilities. New hires should not be expected to recall this from their larger training. They need to be engaged on these topics from different perspectives to ensure not only comprehension but an ability to demonstrate skill acquisition or specific behaviors or attitudes as they perform their work.
  • Remediation/Performance Campaign – Any new hires between Day 90 and 120 who are not demonstrating integration of the desired behaviors and attitudes while performing their jobs need additional exposure to topics. Here, the microlearning products can be the same, but the outcome or call to action (aka the activity the participant performs) could be different.

If you are wondering what other use cases are at play, they would be predominately Pensive and Practice. Let’s take a look at Pensive in each of these situations:

  • Pensive. All three new-hire performance pathways can encourage reflection, but the questions for each audience can be different. For example:
    • New Hire, Day 1 (Augmentation): Highlight three ways in which your current work philosophy aligns and deviates from the company’s philosophy and provide examples.
    • Post Onboarding (Reinforcement): Over the last two months, you have observed the company’s work philosophy in action by your peers and leaders. Identify a moment that you thought embodied this philosophy. Elaborate to address all tenets of the philosophy.
    • Day 90 to Day 120 (Remediation): Select the tenet(s) that you are currently not demonstrating of the company’s work philosophy. Compare and contrast your current behaviors and attitudes against the definitions and examples. For any item where you differ from the company, list up to three ways in which you can alter your approach to better align.

Notes on practice and performance

A product can deploy practice as a call to action. Any of the use cases can elicit practice from the learner, and I encourage it to not be solely contained within the product. Remember: Calls to action should be contextualized and relate to the learner’s performance on the job. While practice may be part of a microlearning product (contained within the product), it should not be considered the outcome of that product. However, there are some instances where that may occur.

By this I mean, practice may (or may not) vary by pathway. Ways to provide practice and have it also be the outcome are through using an AI-enhanced application (think like Interflexion, (k)Nudging or Presentr), a virtual coaching session, or even a workshop.

Microlearning offers tremendous creative flexibility when products and campaigns are planned out with consideration for what may impede data collection, timely roll-outs, and impactful product design. However, if this is your first go at microlearning and you are finding the opportunities overwhelming—go micro!

Don’t stop yourself from mapping out all the possibilities; just take a moment with your team or stakeholders and prioritize the options so you can focus on just one purpose (and potential) for now!

Dive into microlearning for performance at Learning Solutions 2023

In addition to multiple sessions in the Micro- and Workflow Learning track at Learning Solutions 2023 Conference and Expo, April 12–14 in Orlando, Florida, you can spend a full day exploring the potential to put performance-driven microlearning to work for your organization. Robyn Defelice will present her workshop, “Make Performance-Driven Microlearning Work for Your Organization,” on April 11. Register today!