Microlearning: Learning More with Less
Microlearning is a concept that has been generating a lot of interest in the learning industry lately. This year’s Association for Talent Development (ATD) conference featured several well-attended sessions on microlearning. If you’re reading this blog, then you’re probably already familiar with what microlearning is.
Simply put, microlearning is (relatively) short chunks of learning that address a single objective or task. Some feel that good microlearning has a finite time limit, like it has to be under two minutes, or under five minutes in length. But good microlearning can be as long as it needs to be if it addresses a single objective or task. I’ve seen pieces that were 15 or 20 minutes long, but I would still call them microlearning because they taught a single objective.
I’ve heard some learning professionals say that microlearning is the next big thing, and we should all be doing it all of the time. But like any tool in the learning toolkit, it’s great for some situations, but it’s probably not the right tool for every situation.
At Mastech Digital, we constantly strive to select the right tool or method that best solves a client’s business problem. I’m reminded of a recent project where a client was introducing a new computer system that automated a number of operations that were previously performed manually. The client was a global company with many locations, and one interesting aspect of their organization is that individuals in similar roles didn’t necessarily perform the same groups of tasks in different locations. This made role-specific training virtually impossible.
Microlearning was the right solution in this case, because it separated the tasks and allowed them to be connected differently in different locations. It also allowed individuals to learn discrete operations as needed. The result was shorter time between learning a specific task and performing it live in the system, which then resulted in better retention.
Microlearning has another advantage for those with an eye toward the future, in that it can help facilitate adaptive learning, which is a subject for another blog post at another time. However, as the technology evolves and adaptive learning becomes more accessible, having content in smaller chunks already can make it easier for an adaptive learning engine to make decisions based on the analytics it collects.
In summary, microlearning is a terrific tool for some situations, but it does learners a disservice if we try to force-fit every problem into that particular solution.