What Is Microlearning?

What is microlearning? It’s the future of corporate training, eLearning, performance support, knowledge retention and workflow learning — all rolled into one. It’s ‘micro’ in size but not in stature. Above all, it creates a positive impact on your workforce with its flexibility, and it will bring measurable results that show the effectiveness of your eLearning.

Microlearning moves learning into the workflow 

The emergence of micro training changes learning from an event that has to be scheduled and “gone to” — something that takes employees away from work — into an integral part of work. With microlearning, learning moves into the workflow.

What is microlearning in the context of training?

A doctor in a white labcoat with a stethoscope around his neck looks intently at is mobile phone.

Micro training transforms learning into something that happens anywhere and at any time:

  • In the LMS or outside of it
  • Online or offline
  • On mobile and desktop devices
  • Occurring at work, during breaks, during a commute or whenever the learner has a few minutes
  • Aligned with the way people learn and solve problems today

What is the meaning of microlearning?

Getting to the root of what microlearning is and why L&D teams should care about it can require some effort. A definition of microlearning is broad and inclusive. 

Throughout its brief history, microlearning has been called by many names. Some of these are quite descriptive: nano-learning or bite-size learning, micro training and micro courses. Individual learning modules might be called learning nuggets.

Whatever you call it, some microlearning principles are consistent:

Micro training is useful

Microlearning answers a specific question or provides or reinforces specific knowledge. It does so quickly, with short, targeted content.

Microlearning units must be searchable

Whether learners access learning nuggets individually or opt for a course built of individual micro lessons; whether their micro training is offered via an LMS or on a website or wiki — or they access micro courses using a mobile app, there is one non-negotiable feature: Learners have to be able to easily search for and find the content they need, quickly. 

It’s not enough to enable learners to look for content by course title or topic or provide a browsable “catalog” of learning nuggets. 

Bite-size learning is engaging and relevant

Microlearning is not linear. Learners no longer face a forced march through all of the sections of a comprehensive course or curriculum, in the same order, no matter who the learner is or what they need to know. 

They choose and study only the material they need to know, not the same long, in-depth content that everyone in the company completes. 

And, akin to Google’s “featured snippets,” each micro course or unit must provide one precise answer to the learner’s question — quickly.

Why did microlearning emerge?

A small four-leaf plant sprouting from a crack in a piece of concrete.

Micro eLearning is a response to a training problem: Avoidance. Learners avoid training that is not relevant, not engaging or not necessary because it covers information they already know.

Microlearning is also a response to a huge change in how people behave as consumers, citizens — and employees. When they have a question, they Google the answer. 

This modern approach to learning made microlearning inevitable. Short, focused microlearning units fit with how people interact with information in an always-on, always-connected digital world. They look for answers to specific questions and solutions to problems at the moment, as the need arises. 

What challenges does microlearning address specifically?

The concept of bite-sized learning nuggets is not new; microlearning simply applies a tried-and-true approach, incremental learning, to a digital world. In fact, a key micro eLearning principle is utility. In other words, micro-courses are useful and relevant. 

Micro eLearning is also a response to a time crunch. Modern employees do not feel that they have time for training. Scheduling training, then being away from their work for an hour or two, is a burden. Scheduling training time is difficult and simply not a priority. 

Yet at the same time, workers know that they need to keep their skills sharp and constantly add new skills, just to keep pace with their jobs. 

Continuous microlearning provides a solution. In a few minutes a day, micro training fits easily into the workflow, allowing employees to learn without feeling pressured or burdened.

An added advantage is being able to return to microlearning units at any time, on-demand, to answer questions that arise while workers are performing their jobs.

What is microlearning — from a business perspective?

Training developers, their managers and even corporate executives are exploring what microlearning is and why they should care about it. What they are finding is that microlearning is an effective and beneficial solution. 

Microlearning is scalable and cost-effective

Adding learners doesn’t require time-consuming enrollments. Deploying microlearning to thousands of learners or adding courses and modules is efficient and less costly than other conventional eLearning or instructor-led training options. 

Micro-training is easy to update

A departure from the annual training model, many microlearning platforms offer continuous learning — with continuous, real-time updates. 

With annual training, learners use outdated content for many months between updates. But with continuous microlearning, employees always have current information.  

Introduce meaningful, real-time data to prove the effectiveness of microlearning

Microlearning in business contexts often includes sophisticated tracking. As a result, managers and L&D teams can easily see how learners are progressing. They can quickly identify areas where more training is needed and even pinpoint and resolve issues with the training content. 

Even more importantly, managers can connect training progress to improved work performance or see what topics learners are struggling with. This information makes it easy to improve training offerings and boost the training effectiveness.

Explore microlearning further and learn why you should care about it

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