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What is Microlearning? 

eLearning development for a comprehensive and successful microlearning program will be a differentiator for tomorrow’s leading companies. So while you may be asking “what is microlearning,” perhaps a better question is “how can I start my microlearning program today?”

What is Microlearning?

Microlearning refers to any type of training that is concise, either in terms of the amount learned at one time or the length of the learning activity. Microlearning’s strength lies in its ability to break complex course content into smaller, easily digestible content blocks for the learner. Microlearning allows learners to absorb brief amounts of information, typically at their convenience. These “bite-sized” training sessions, while not a new concept, are particularly well adapted for today’s learners who are comfortable with mobile devices and social media platforms.

Microlearning gives a unique level of control to the learner, allowing them to choose where and when they engage with training. Microlearning also offers companies affordability while increasing training accessibility for their workforce, making it a powerful learning and development (L&D) tool.

Microlearning can be used throughout an organization for any type of L&D needs including:

  • Onboarding Product knowledge
  • On-the-job microlearning
  • Compliance
  • Technological microlearning
  • Professional development
  • Self-directed learning

So while there’s no one exact answer to the question “What is Microlearning?,” in today's environment of busy schedules, short attention spans, and extensive amounts of critical content, microlearning is uniquely positioned to be a powerful resource for business leaders and trainees alike.

Why is Microlearning Effective?

Deploying microlearning as part of a learning and development strategy has numerous benefits, both for the training team and the learners. For L&D teams, developing microlearning is sometimes a more simple process than the traditional long-form training sessions used in the past. Shorter content can be easier and faster to produce. It’s also potentially easier to update each microlearning module to reflect training changes or user feedback.

According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, learning information in small pieces makes learning 17% more efficient. The reasons for this are threefold. Studies have shown people learn and retain more information in the long term when training is broken into shorter sections. Shorter content can also make learning seem less intimidating, meaning staff is more likely to both dive into the training and stick with it. Finally, microlearning helps people fit training into their schedule, lowering one of the most common barriers to effective on-the-job learning - time.

Maximizing effective learning time is an enormous factor for today’s L&D leaders. A University of California-Irvine study showed that employees work for an average of 11 minutes before they will be distracted by an outside stimulus. And even within this very short 11-minute span, employees work on various short and quick tasks lasting approximately 3 minutes each. With this in mind, microlearning’s role in successfully delivering required effective training that fits within a short window of time is clear.

Microlearning vs. eLearning

People often wonder “What is microlearning and how does it relate to eLearning?” While these terms are often used interchangeably and there is some overlap between the two, they actually refer to different things.

eLearning, also called electronic or online learning, refers to any type of training or learning program that is delivered digitally. In today’s L&D world, that most often means via online systems, whether they be open on the internet or delivered within a company’s internal digital system to its workers. eLearning has become popular because it saves time and money by reducing the need for classroom-based training. This training solution is, now more than ever, critical for national/multinational companies with geographically disparate teams and for the more recent needs of an increasingly remote workforce.

Microlearning takes eLearning to another level through its unique format (i.e., shorter training) and it's just-in-time approach to learning. While microlearning can be utilized in a classroom setting, it’s most often used - and more effective - when delivered digitally. Through the eLearning format, microlearning training can be delivered exactly where and when the user requires it instead of coordinating training rooms, staff schedules, and trainer availability.

The Four Steps To Develop An eLearning Program

Developing an eLearning program is one of the most effective projects that today’s L&D teams can undertake to deliver value to both the company and its teams. Every organization has a unique technical environment, business challenges, goals, brand and culture. Each of these aspects needs consideration when building a microlearning program that's designed to succeed. Partnering with an experienced eLearning developer is an important element to a successful microlearning program. There are four key steps to develop an eLearning program for your organization:

Step #1

Consultation with a eLearning partner to truly understand your needs, business goals, challenges, and other factors that lead to success.

Step #2

Design the custom eLearning system that addresses those identified eLearning needs.

Step #3

Develop the personalized assets and training content to be delivered via microlearning modules.

Step #4

Deliver the final eLearning solution and microlearning content, measuring performance and fine-tuning as trainings are completed.

Tackling Complex Topics With Microlearning

While microlearning can be deployed for any type of training, it's most beneficial when breaking down complex topics. Comprehensive course content can be overwhelming to learners, mainly due to the sheer amount of information. Microlearning can make the transfer of this type of content more efficient. In other words, by breaking down the overall course load into shorter, more digestible microlearnings, the learning is easier to incorporate into user knowledge and apply to real life use.

Microlearning’s bite-sized format also has benefits when it comes to learner attention rates and course completion rates. As staff is required to learn complex information, a smaller amount of information delivered in a shorter amount of time keeps them engaged throughout the entire course. According to Deloitte’s “Meet the Modern Learner” study, employees have only about 20 minutes a week to focus on training and development. With microlearning, organizations can make the most out of those 20 minutes to ensure complex topics are learned and retained.

One critical component of learning complex topics is the ability for the learners to undertake the training, put that training to use, and then go back for additional training that closes any remaining skill gaps. L&D leadership can leverage microlearning’s just-in-time framework to do just that, both allowing staff to learn what they need and ensure the entire team has the same knowledge or skills overall.

Developing and Deploying Adaptive Microlearning as Part of an eLearning Solution

When learning and development needs to be customizable for different teams or even individual learners, deploying adaptive eLearning courses is a perfect solution. Adaptive eLearning delivers personalization by adapting the curriculum based on the learner’s responses to the content. When combined with the efficacy and efficiency benefits of microlearning, the customization options grow incrementally. Learning of any type can be separated into easily-digestible learning modules, adapted for different people or groups throughout the organization, and tracked towards overall end-goals aligned to L&D milestones. This is an ideal option for today’s global teams and remote workforces.

How To Choose An eLearning Development Team

The right eLearning partner can be the difference between a program that’s enthusiastically adopted throughout your organization and one that doesn’t deliver results, leading to its eventual discontinuation.Therefore choosing the right eLearning partner to help develop your microlearning program and one that understands how to incorporate microlearning into your overall L&D offering is critical.

Ensure your eLearning development partner takes the time to understand your company and its workforce. Developing eLearning and microlearning programs is not a turnkey activity. The ability to customize a program that fits the organization’s training needs and its workforce’s learning style is critical for success.

The best eLearning developers also combine behavioral best practices with technology to create powerful learning environments that motivate learners. Using a learner-centric approach motivates and engages the learner, ultimately delivering successful outcomes for organizations. That approach, in conjunction with deploying the most innovative and effective technologies that fit your organization, will help ensure your eLearning program maximizes success.

The final component for which to look when choosing an eLearning development partner is passion. While this might be a less tangible qualification, it’s just as important as other selection criteria. L&D leaders know that the best among them is passionate about delivering necessary learning to their teams. They look for ways to drive value, pride, and innovation everyday; the best eLearning development partner should do the same.

Evaluating Your Learning and Development (L&D) Strategy

While there might have been a time when L&D success was simply measured by the number of people who completed training, evaluating today’s L&D strategies is decidedly more comprehensive. L&D is a critical change agent for companies’ bottom-lines so evaluation must reflect that role. To truly drive success, L&D programs, including eLearning and microlearning deployments, must demonstrate that a learner's knowledge and skills improved post-training. Further, evaluation data must show that individuals are applying the newly learned knowledge in their everyday work. Beyond individual milestones, teams should be working more effectively as a result of the learning. These critical metrics, along with many others, must be considered when evaluating your L&D strategy.

L&D leaders must identify short- and long-term goals of their eLearning program, including regular milestones by which to measure improvements along the way. Engaging division or team leaders in this exercise is an ideal way to get early buy-in and ensure L&D success is a shared metric throughout the organization. Finally, celebrate learning wins broadly while addressing possible course corrections early to ensure long-term success.

Take the Next Step: How to Begin Your Microlearning Program

eLearning development for a comprehensive and successful microlearning program will be a differentiator for tomorrow’s leading companies. So while you may be asking “what is microlearning,” perhaps a better question is “how can I start my microlearning program today?” Ardent provides custom eLearning solutions that drive performance improvements and deliver critical learning to teams throughout the world. Contact us today to start the conversation about your personalized microlearning program needs.