What Is Microlearning? Everything You Need To Know

elearning microlearning
Two employees smiling and talking at work

With the world’s rapid technological advancements in the past few years, new tactics and strategies are redefining virtually any niche you can think of. Chief among those niches is education, which has seen several different disruptive strategies and technologies emerge over the past decade. Of those numerous strategies and trends, microlearning has proven to be a game-changer in encouraging deep learning while allowing employees to stay connected with those around them. Upended the way we view workplace training programs, microlearning boosts employee morale by fostering day-to-day growth.

This modern-day solution to corporate learning has emerged as one of the most effective and engaging ways to keep learners excited about exploring new arenas. At eLearning Partners, we incorporate microlearning into our eLearning tools to keep your employees engaged and connected. Here’s our guide on everything you need to know about microlearning.

What Is Microlearning? 

Microlearning is the process of breaking down your lessons into tiny bite-sized pieces. Instead of a lengthy lesson, you turn it into learning bites. These are the smallest lessons, and each covers a single topic. 

The biggest advantage of microlearning is its ability to address the challenge of the short attention spans of today’s learners. Even if you create the most interesting content, your learners will struggle with paying attention to lessons that are more than a few hours long. That is just the way the human mind works. 

Microlearning overcomes this challenge by dramatically reducing the amount of time that your learners need to pay attention. Microlearning sessions last for just one, two, five, or ten minutes instead of a typical in-person session that lasts for hours. It goes without saying that it is much easier to stay engaged for a few minutes rather than an hour or more. 

How Did Microlearning Start?

While microlearning can seem like a new concept, it’s actually been around for decades. The concept came from “microteaching”, which was prevalent during the 60s. Microteaching originated in the education industry to optimize the training method for new teachers. This was done by scaling back on elements such as time, size, and content. This is what created the foundation for microlearning.

It was in 2005 when the first-ever conference related to microlearning took place. The place was Innsbruck, Austria, and the event was brought together by the Research Studio eLearning Environments and the Institute of Educational Sciences at the University of Innsbruck.

The conference focused on the features of microteaching and the status of higher education and corporate training during that period. One conclusion was the potential of microteaching to improve internal communication among employees and create new forms of personal connection. As a result of this, microlearning was born and became what it is today.

Types of Microlearning

#1. Mobile-based learning

Since microlearning is agile and concise, it’s not a surprise that it has led to the proliferation of mobile-based learning. Also known as mLearning, it makes all the learning material easily accessible to the users, so that they can go through them on their phones.

Mobile-based learning is mainly focused on the mobility of the learner and enables a smoother way for learner interactions to take place. Sharing content, feedback, and discussion points become easier through mLearning, allowing employees to connect online more easily.

#2. Microlearning videos

Videos provide an easy way to deliver and comprehend information due to their ability to engage Learners’ different senses. They can watch graphics that appear on the screen, listen to the subject matter expert's explanation of the concept, and pause whenever they need to take notes. Learners can even enable subtitles to make sure they understand technical words correctly which improves learning outcomes.

#3. Infographics

Another great way to provide microlearning is by creating infographics that showcase certain processes. Mind maps and infographics help to get a birds-eye view of the subject and memorize it more easily. 

#4. eBooks

eBooks are convenient, accessible, and readily available to readers. Employees can read eBooks over a period of time, making the learning process more flexible for the user. You can also incorporate engaging and interactive elements into an eBook for better memory retention, such as videos, quizzes at the end of every chapter, infographics, and so on. Interactive elements like these also give employees something to talk about.

#5. Interactive PDFs

Interactive PDFs have proven to be the evolved equivalents of portable documents. The interactive elements in these PDFs facilitate the engagement rate among learners, thereby increasing their attention span and giving a new spin to the delivery of knowledge and skills. These PDFs also help engage employees by including features such as popups, tabs, animations, etc.

#6. Gamification

Gamification refers to applying gaming strategies in a non-game context. It’s mainly used for training and development. The training exercises these days are made to resemble a big game. For instance, completing certain courses to earn a badge. Gamification leads to more efficient outcomes and provides a better learning experience for the users. Gamification creates a social environment for learning that gives employees a more fun way to interact.

#7. Social Media 

You will be surprised but social media is microlearning. A recent study conducted by Google revealed that 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 use TikTok and Instagram for search. Meaning that many of us learn on social media in small chunks of information. 

Microlearning benefits and advantages

Microlearning has several benefits that make this eLearning approach the most effective for corporate training and online courses alike. 

The following are some of the benefits of microlearning:

#1. Microlearning Boosts Engagement

As we’ve mentioned, one of the biggest driving forces behind microlearning is the fact that it boosts engagement. It is much easier for learners to stay engaged if lessons are short. People with longer attention spans can get through as many online microlearning lessons at once as they want. But those with shorter attention spans, which is most people, will find a single microlearning lesson to be the ideal length. 

#2. Microlearning Makes Your Content Searchable 

The other major advantage of microlearning is that you make your course searchable. This is great for learners who only want to learn a few topics, to begin with. It is also ideal when they want to refresh their memory. According to Ebbinghaus's Forgetting Curve, memories fade over time, and so are the important concepts we learned once. Thanks to microlearning, Learners won’t have to relisten to an entire hour-long course to find the information they are searching for. Instead, they can just search for the relevant five-minute video and watch that. 

#3. Microlearning Offers Accessibility 

With the help of mobile learning, microlearning allows your Learners to access information where they are and exactly when they need it, which is called ‘just-in-time’ learning. They can learn at their own pace, completing as many microlearning modules as they can take in at a time. This helps tremendously in case your learners have learning differences, such as dyslexia. This also makes microlearning ideal for corporate training for skills, tasks, and even safety, as it revolves around the transfer of knowledge.

#4. Microlearning Helps With Learner Motivation

Many learners also find microlearning to be highly motivating. It is much easier to tell yourself you have to get through five or 10 minutes of a lesson than an hour. Microlearning saves time since it focuses only on targeted and specific information. Therefore, all the time is devoted purely to learning instead of having to fret about worthless info. This can boost the learning experience. 

#5. Prevents Cognitive Overload

The human brain can’t process an overload of information. Therefore, it should be given time to go through any information that comes in. Microlearning helps with just that. Learners gain access to small bits of knowledge at regular intervals instead of having to consume or memorize modules in huge quantities all at once.

This helps prevent cognitive overload. Learners are able to absorb the skills and knowledge required for a current task, and also preserve the prime takeaways. The brain gets enough time to process the data and link it to the preexisting knowledge. Learning effectively creates confidence, encouraging employees to collaborate without trepidation.

#6. Microlearning Improves Retention

In 2015, it was reported that microlearning helps in improving a learner’s retention rate by 20%. It was also reported that microlearning helps learners take less time to answer questions. Learners get the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned while communicating with others and also evaluate their new skills in the corporate context right away.

All the knowledge that they acquire can be connected to real-world applications. This practical form of learning is what helps in boosting the rate of knowledge retention and recall. Since humans are capable of retaining information better when provided through visual and interactive mediums, microlearning wins in this aspect.

#7. It Makes Getting Feedback Easy

Another important aspect of microlearning is how easy it is to get feedback from your learners. There are a few ways to do this. You can start by checking on what they have learned. You can do this by asking a question between chunks of learning. Still, you aren’t limited to this technique, as there can also be other types of interactivities. 

More importantly, as you get feedback from learners, you can use it to help your learners even more. You can ask your learners what else they would like to see or what changes to make in the future. With tools like Video Ask, you can embed this feedback mechanism right into your program. 

#8. Microlearning is Cost-Effective

The Towards Maturity Research in 2016 stated that 87% of businesses wish to reduce their learning costs. This wish comes true with microlearning. Since the duration of it is less, the method also requires less time and fewer resources for delivery and preparation. As a result of this, the production cost reduces, and the development cycle is shortened as well.

Updating a module is easier in microlearning due to its design. Since modules don’t affect each other in this method of learning, businesses end up spending resources more efficiently. Also, as microlearning works well for numerous stages ranging from pre-training to during-training, long-term value can be achieved at a minimal cost.

#9. Microlearning Helps You Keep Track of the Topic

Microlearning also makes your job as a course developer easier. More specifically, it is easier for you to confirm that you covered everything you wanted to in general and on a particular topic. For an overview, you can look at your microlearning lesson titles and confirm everything is there. Then, on a smaller scale, if you want to ensure you covered everything about a given subtopic, you just have a few minutes of a lesson to examine. 

There are several additional benefits of microlearning for businesses including on-demand answers to employee questions, reduced overhead, and employee development and empowerment. 

How long is microlearning? 

The simple answer is that microlearning should be as long as the learner’s attention span. This will vary based on your target audience, but there are some general rules to consider. 

Rule #1. Most Microlearning Content is Under 10 Minutes

The general rule of thumb for microlearning is that each lesson should be less than 10 minutes. If you can’t fit the entire lesson within 10 minutes, then see how you can divide it into smaller lessons. There are likely ways to divide the topic even further so you can do so.

Exceptions to the 10-Minute Rule

While you usually want to keep microlearning lessons under 10 minutes, this isn’t always possible. But the exceptions are rare. 

One of these exceptions would be for a highly technical subject, such as cybersecurity. Depending on the technical nature of the topic, you may not be able to easily divide it into bits. Perhaps there simply isn’t a good dividing point. Or maybe the learning just won’t go smoothly with a gap in it. 

But before you create content that is longer than 10 minutes, make sure that it can’t be divided up. You should have a very good reason to keep longer content together. 

Rule #2. 30 Minutes Is the Maximum Even for Technical Topics

If you are certain that the topic can’t be divided without negatively affecting learning, then you still want to keep it as short as possible. While you can make the lesson longer than 10 minutes, 30 should be the absolute maximum. 

Rule #3. Keep Your Learners In Mind

When deciding if your topic can go past the 10-minute mark, carefully consider your learners. Think about how long they want to sit through a lesson. You hopefully already have data from them about their preferences. Keep this data in mind and stick to their preferred time limit. 

How to Create Microlearning From Scratch?

Creating microlearning from scratch can seem daunting if you are doing it for the first time. Start by looking at the big picture to understand what you want to cover in your microlearning course. Put together an outline with the estimated time it will take you to deliver the material. Then, break it down into smaller easier to digest chunks. You can then script the individual microlearning videos to help you prepare for filming your content. 

How to Incorporate Microlearning into Corporate Training?

Many of our clients wonder if there is a difference between eLearning and microlearning training programs. Although microlearning is one of the types of eLearning methods for corporate training, eLearning and microlearning aren’t identical. We’ve seen the best engagement rates with microlearning courses, and we recommend incorporating microlearning into your corporate training for that very reason. 

Step #1. Have A Goal

When it comes to incorporating microlearning in your corporate training, the first step is to have a clear goal in mind as to what the program aims to achieve. We prefer to think about these not as learning objectives but as milestones that your Learners go through to accomplish a goal. When employees know what they should achieve, they’ll be able to complete targeted learning more successfully.

Step #2. Make It Accessible

Learning isn’t and shouldn’t be limited to office premises. Thanks to the advancements in the digital world, information is now available everywhere - and that’s how people prefer to access it as well. The world has gone mobile and it’s about time that learning does too. With any microlearning module, it is important that it is available when the learner wishes. You can successfully motivate learners to go through the modules in the comfort of their homes or on their way to work. 

Step #3. Make Use Of Design

Design is a powerful tool - one that many people underestimate. People are visual learners and are able to grasp and retain visual information faster and in a more effective manner. The beauty of colors, shapes, graphs, images, and even videos makes the whole corporate microlearning training program highly encouraging for users.

Step #4. Communicate Well

The key to disseminating any information is how effectively one is able to communicate and present it. With microlearning, the short informational pieces help with developing a strong connection between Learners and the eLearning courses you create. It also helps to create a learning culture in your organization with will benefit your employees and management by increasing revenue and reducing losses.

Step #5. Organize and Analyze

A big part of delivering a microlearning corporate training program is to develop a coherent structure of the learning content. Corporate training is an important part of any organization’s internal communication strategy and with microlearning, the strategy gets a significant boost.

Microlearning splits information about the training program into easy-to-understand, bite-sized modules. While developing the program, it is essential to stay organized and arrange the modules with a logical flow that makes sense to the reader. After organizing the program, the next step is to analyze the efficiency and organizational structure.

Although you can develop a microlearning program for your corporate training with your internal resources, sometimes it makes sense to delegate the work to one of the top eLearning providers for microlearning. Not every team has an instructional designer who knows how to use LMS or an authoring tool to develop effective microlearning.

Here, at eLearning Partners, we have a proven track record of developing microlearning training seven times faster than the industry average while saving our clients over $10,000 in the process. You can learn more about our Premium eLearning Content package and see examples of the microlearning content we’ve developed for our clients.

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