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WHAT IS MICROLEARNING?

The term microlearning has been around for a while, but it’s more than just a buzzword. It incorporates a whole array of learning techniques, each of which have been around – if not well-articulated – since the beginning of time.

Microlearning is the delivery of short, fast, bite-sized chunks of information… isn’t it? Actually, the success of microlearning courses depends on much more than the size of the assets and completion rates. Microlearning is very much about delivering a series of training interventions that will have an impact on learners. The type of intervention and when it is accessed is just as important as its content. A good microlearning programme doesn’t chunk up courses into smaller ones. Instead, it uses a variety of appropriate tools within your learning infrastructure. Alongside this, it always applies the principles of spaced repetition and practice.

Producing bite-sized chunks of training content quickly, and evaluating and refining it over-scheduled iterations, suits today’s time-pressured, fast-paced organisations. It’s also what suits the more progressive L&D departments who know their value lies in developing strategies that truly impact business development.

Microcontent

Microcontent is the name now given to those short, focused bite sized chunks of any digital learning solution. How micro is microcontent? We like to think of each piece of microcontent as being a “single-outcome” resource as a good rule of thumb. If a learner retains the knowledge that the microcontent was created to explain or show, then that’s a good outcome.

Microcontent can take the form of many assets including; microlearning videos, animations, infographics, games, assessments, demos, simulations, examples and user-generated knowledge-shares.

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SPACED REPETITION

What if you could repeat that short bit of learning for the learner in the not-too-distant future? Add to that an opportunity to practise applying this new knowledge to a situation. This is where spaced repetition, or spaced practice, comes in.

Many new Learning Experience Platforms have built-in algorithms that automatically deploy microcontent at strategic moments over a period of time. This provides learning interventions for learners in the key areas where they need a certain sustained level of knowledge. Click here to read about our LXDs’ take on spaced repetition.

AI and Adaptive Learning

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    Basic AI has already crept into online learning. We’re already all familiar with chatbots and instruction from a ‘human’ computer voice. But intelligent algorithms are being built into learning systems, analysing results and making intelligent decisions. The algorithms are learning and deploying changing strategies and will only continue to grow in complexity, allowing adaptive learning to become more sophisticated. They are going further than personalising a learning solution based on test results. They look at the ability of learners to apply knowledge to real-life scenarios and at the confidence demonstrated in doing so.

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    In this way, intelligent software can now identify where learners fall short of having required skills and knowledge. They can also tailor a learning path through necessary content. Platforms that support personalised learning programmes are finally catching up with the concepts of spaced practice and adaptive learning. The built-in intelligence can be constantly assessing each individual learner’s competence, and the tool will bring them along a unique learning path.

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    Your small chunks of relevant, digestible content are served up to each learner at regular intervals. Key information is repeated and reinforced, and new topics are introduced at an appropriate time. Competent learners can be fast-tracked through a learning programme. Learners that need more time and opportunities to learn are also catered for.

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    The customisation of these deployment schedules provides for human intervention when necessary. For strategic L&D professionals, this results in highly focused, efficient, engaging and smart learning programmes for learners with varying needs. In the past it has been challenging for organisations to effectively implement spaced practice strategies. These strategies relied heavily on manual and time-costly efforts. They had a large initial time investment to plan resources and schedules. There is a growing ability of platforms to manage the auto-deployment and timed delivery of microcontent in an appropriate manner. It has resulted in the focus of learning solutions to shift to the learning outcomes and to the quality of the content. This is allowing L&D to facilitate true performance support.

Data-driven learning

The advance of AI has given rise to powerful analytics in relation to online learning. It’s no longer about achieving 8 out of 10 in a final assessment or visiting all the screens. It’s now possible to properly gauge how effective the learning is. Dashboards now show the topics that are important for learners to be good at their jobs, once identified by the Subject Matter Experts. They show the actual competence and confidence levels demonstrated by learners in these areas and so highlight the real skills and knowledge gaps. We now have valid micro learning statistics, and real data on which to focus effective learning strategies. These statistics could be the key to increasing and managing budgets. They can also help make the business case for the development of crucial or more in-depth learning resources.

Dashboard

BENEFITS OF MICROLEARNING

For business:

  • Scalability of training
  • Cost control
  • Ability to quickly update content
  • Outcome-based results
  • Choice and flexibility
  • Increased learner engagement
  • Faster response to business challenges
  • Agile development process
  • Ability to address niche (underfunded) areas quickly and cost effectively
  • Direct alignment of end product to intended goal
  • Fast, strategic deployment and rollout
  • Creation of RLOs (reusable learning objects)
  • Micro content that can live anywhere
  • A culture of innovation

For learners:

  • Long term knowledge retention
  • Relevant content
  • Reduced cognitive load
  • What you want, when you want it (JIT or just-in-time learning)
  • Shorter, less time-consuming tasks
  • Shorter attention span required
  • A variety of engagement types and media formats
  • Mobile-first learning
  • Opportunity to self-author and share knowledge
  • Access to up-to-date information
  • Access to the harder-to-reach (previously under-resourced) knowledge areas

AGILE development

A microlearning solution also comes with the benefits of an agile development process and is flexible and scalable in nature. This brings time efficiencies and cost control and the ability to roll out training quickly. An agile approach to development will enable an L&D department to respond quickly to business needs. It can drastically reduce the time training takes to reach the learner, providing both short term and long term gains. 

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An engaging microlearning solution might include lots of different types of microcontent. Short videos, animations, conversations, diagrams, images, infographics, interactions, text explanations, assessment questions, scenario questions, to suggest a few. These assets can sit independently and be deployed to your learners from within the appropriate learning environment. They will sit happily on mobile devices.

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learning experience designers

LXDs and Instructional Designers (read what they do here) would need assistance from the Subject Matter Experts to refine learning outcomes. There would be a large focus at the beginning of a programme on understanding the target audience and identifying the content that’s of most importance to them. This is how the real intelligence is fed into the system for adapting and personalising a learner’s path to success. The writing and crafting of the microcontent will be key to success. The structure of the microlearning programme will greatly affect the overall training experience and the learning success. (Read here about considerations for a Microlearning Design Model)

learning-experience-designers-diagram

Where to start

You might want to adopt some small aspects of microlearning, that would complement existing training programmes. You may have a blended learning programme in mind, and can see within it a place for microlearning. You may be as excited as we are about a full microlearning strategy, with its adaptive layers and powerful analytics. You believe it could revolutionise all your online training, including replacing your old compliance training.

Whatever way your organisation might embrace microlearning courses, it’s hard to argue against the effectiveness of good, well-crafted microcontent (read our blog on applying microlearning principles to traditional eLearning). Regardless of the authoring tool, microcontent can be deployed as standalone learning resources.

Microcontent can sit:

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    ON THE WEBSITE

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    WITHIN AN EXISTING LMS

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    WITHIN AN EXISTING LMS

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    ON A INDEPENDENT MICROLEARNING PLATFORM

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    on a microlearning platform that is integrated into your lms

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    on a microlearning platform that is integrated into your lms

Micro content can replace, enhance or complement existing training. It can be reused and repurposed for quick outcomes

Growing skills through a microlearning solution isn’t going to happen any faster. However, user engagement tends to be much better when the content is delivered in a less intimidating, less onerous fashion, fitting in with busy timetables.

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Make an Informed choice

Microlearning isn’t the answer to everything. There are, of course, areas where macrolearning and macrocontent is more appropriate (e.g. larger topics where context and flow are very important). But understanding the options for learning platforms and solutions leads to more discerning choices when it comes to the challenge of meeting the needs of modern learners.

Don’t get too hung up on what a microlearning solution is or has to be. Understand what its principles could mean for your organisation, and then decide to what level you might apply them.

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