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May 09, 2018
Microlearning: make your training easily accessible when and where it’s needed
By David Galt, Senior Legal Editor - EHS Training

Microlearning. More and more organizations want it, some thinking it’s a way to condense or shorten the time it takes to train workers. Or is it just another buzzword to sell products and services to companies that want a change in the way they train?

The term microlearning and how it is used in the workplace is explained at the 2018 ATD International Conference and Exposition in San Diego, CA in two sessions: one entitled, Microlearning: What? Why? How? With JD Dillon at Axonify, Diane Elkins of Artisan E-Learning, Stephen Meyer of Rapid Learning Institute, and Shannon Tipton of Learning Rebels, and another related session entitled Microlearning on the Go: Developing Microlearning for a Busy Workforce with Shannon Tipton.  ATD is the Association for Talent Development.

“Micro” means little, small. It can be a short burst of content, or a message, but it has to be right-sized for the specific audience and content. Microlearning is not time-specific, but is a mode of learning, not dependent on a technology or specific delivery system.

Basic elements of a microlearning unit

The basic elements of a microlearning unit are:

  • A single topic
  • A single objective, key idea, or concept
  • Easily “digestible” content that solves a problem or achieves a specific goal
  • Has a beginning, middle, and end that is not dependent on or does not rely on other content

Each microlearning unit is distinct because it is developed independent of other content; in other words, it is not a “chunk” of content extracted from a larger course or training program. Related microlearning units can, however, be strung together to supplement or reinforce messages covered in an overall training program.

Examples of a learning mode or modality for microlearning are:

  • Brief face-to-face coaching session between a mentor and a student
  • An infographic on paper, a website, poster, or mobile device
  • Podcast
  • Message on a mobile device

Microlearning is not “chunking” existing training content

Microlearning is not “chunking” a previously existing course or lesson plan. It is not a lot of existing content that is condensed in a fraction of the time. For example, an existing full-length classroom or eLearning course cannot be condensed in to microlearning by “chunking” it in to shorter segments. It starts with a specific problem or single objective that can supplement or reinforce a larger topic. It is not dependent on linear use of training where multiple concepts join together in a sequence, one building on the other.

Criteria to develop a microlearning unit

Develop a microlearning unit with the following criteria in mind:

  1. Break down the content to include only the “need to know” components
  2. Identify and remove any “bloat” material
  3. Introduce one key idea, one concept

For example, a macro learning topic or course is “How to Network for a Job.”

  1. A need to know component of the macro topic is “make a first impression.”
  2. Remove all content not directly related to a key takeaway of making a first impression, “your elevator speech.” Smile, make eye contact, shake hands, and ask the other person about themselves are part of making a first impression, but they would distract from the single learning concept of “your elevator speech” for a microlearning item.
  3. The single concept to cover will be the sequence of the elevator speech: say who you are, what you do, why I need you.

The mode of delivering the elevator speech micro content could be an infographic posted on a job search website that illustrates the sequence of the elevator speech.

How to promote microlearning in your organization

When rolling out your microlearning elements to your workers, don’t call it “microlearning.” Use other terminology that matches the organization’s culture of communicating. Tell people how it helps them do their job. Make it easy to use and find. Put the microlearning message where workers can easily access it and where they need it.

For more information about the speakers, contact them on twitter @JD_Dillon, @dpelkins, @SteveMeyerRLI, and @stipton.

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