Microlearning is undoubtedly one of the hottest topics permeating the corporate training world these days. Ironically, the concept is anything but new. Brain scientists discovered years ago that breaking down content into bite-sized pieces is a more effective way to learn. The brain is simply better at processing small chunks of information.
While the good news is that many corporate trainers are finally taking on this concept, the bad news is they’re often forgetting that it’s just one component of a broader learning solution. On its own, microlearning isn’t enough to create an effective training program. After all, simply breaking up an hour-long video into 60, one-minute segments still won’t help employees remember the information over time, let alone apply it correctly on the job. So, using microlearning alone is the wrong way to go.
For microlearning to be truly effective at helping employees learn, retain and apply information on the job, it needs to be supported by five key components:
1. Brain Science
Micro content is definitely easier for employees to remember, due to its bite-sized format; however, it’s still prone to be forgotten if it isn’t consistently reinforced. If you want employees to remember the information long after you present it to them, it’s crucial you combine microlearning with proven memory techniques, such as spaced repetition and repeated retrieval practices.
Spaced repetition involves presenting a concept and then repeating it over specific periods of time to more effectively drive long-term retention. Repeated retrieval involves asking questions to get an individual to recall information. When compared with studying, repeated studying or even concept mapping, retrieval practice is proven to be the best method for ingraining content into memory. When you combine spaced repetition and retrieval practices, this creates the optimal environment for retention, according to Dr. Alice Kim, research associate at the Department of Psychology, York University, and Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Hospital.
Bite-sized content won’t do any good if no one takes time to engage with it. If you want the content to stick, first you need to get employees to start participating in microlearning. Then, you need to make sure they keep coming back for more.
An effective way to engage employees in learning every day is through gamification. Using a microlearning platform that gives employees the opportunity to play a game is a proven way to motivate them to return time and time again. Playing a game while learning also decreases stress, removes distractions and can move the brain into a state of “flow” to open it up for learning. Other game mechanics, such as online report cards (that show employees how they’re progressing in their learning), leaderboards (that encourage employees to compete against each other), and rewards (points and prizes), also help drive high employee engagement in learning.
The fact is that not everyone in the organization needs to know the same information. So it doesn’t make sense to create one-size-fits-all micro content either.
An effective microlearning program depends on developing content that meets specific employee needs. Even if one employee is performing the same role as another, his/her knowledge and experience will be different. On top of this, employees learn at various speeds, meaning some will catch on to some concepts more quickly than others. It’s important for microlearning to adapt to these differences.
To achieve the best results, micro content should be served up through a platform that can identify the content employees know or don’t know on an ongoing basis. Then, learning can be automatically presented to target each employee’s individual strengths and weaknesses. This allows employees to learn at their own pace and focus on building the knowledge they need to perform their jobs at an optimal level.
While microlearning provides an effective way to learn, it still won’t benefit the employee or the business if it can’t be tracked beyond a one-time test score. To really boost employee knowledge, it’s essential to identify the topics employees understand versus those they’re struggling with. If you use a microlearning platform with the capability to measure learning data, you’ll be able to automatically identify patterns and trends and then adjust content to fill in the knowledge gaps.
Measurement is also critical for ensuring employees can translate their knowledge into action on the job. Otherwise, what’s the point of providing training in the first place? A microlearning platform—that allows leaders to record the aspects of the job employees are performing correctly and incorrectly—ensures problem areas can be uncovered proactively, leaders can coach their employees effectively, and specific micro content can be served up automatically to ensure employees learn how to avoid making the same mistakes.
5. Push & Pull
Today’s workforce is anything but static. Employees are often traveling to client sites, participating in off-site meetings, or even working from home. Pushing out microlearning bites on a daily basis helps keep important information top of mind. But there are also many situations when employees need to access information on the spot.
By allowing employees to pull micro content whenever and wherever they need it, you allow them to embrace learning continually, while being more effective in their jobs. Training becomes woven into their workday instead of being something that always has to be scheduled. And when you make learning content accessible from mobile devices, Axonify research shows that employees access this content voluntarily 42 percent more frequently.
When you’re implementing micro, think macro. Done right, microlearning is about more than chunking up content. It’s about integrating this technique into a more comprehensive learning approach that allows your employees to truly build their knowledge and contribute to overall business success.