I was looking forward to teaching my son how to tie a tie. As he gets older, I look forward to those little moments, and being in the training and development field only makes them more notable for me. About an hour before we were leaving for an event, I walked up the stairs practicing with my own tie. I opened the door to his room to find him standing with his tie in a perfect double Windsor knot that he had already tied himself. He learned from YouTube. And it looked better than mine.

I admit, I’ve learned in similar ways. Chances are we all have. Forms of microlearning have increasingly become intertwined in our lives to the extent that we don’t even recognize it as microlearning anymore. The question for training and development professionals is: How do we take the changing shape of microlearning and use it to create meaningful learning experiences?

The True Face of Microlearning

Microlearning delivers information quickly. It improves the attention paid to a particular topic and often produces higher engagement and retention rates. The real power behind microlearning is that it provides flexibility in a workforce that is increasingly faced with less time and a need for relevant information amid a sea of overwhelming information. This flexibility empowers your learners by providing choices and more control over their learning. It offers training in shorter, manageable bursts when and where learners need it.

At the same time, microlearning isn’t simply a shortened version or a snapshot of a course. Although it can be used as a standalone method to learn a specific skill, it is most effective when it is carefully designed as part of a comprehensive learning experience.

Integrating Microlearning into Training Programs

Learning professionals shouldn’t try to pack too much information into each microlearning instance. Instead, each instance should link to only one learning objective. This approach helps provide focus to the shorter learning formats and ensures that learners don’t feel cluttered or overwhelmed with seemingly unfocused information. Learning programs often have objectives that are excellent candidates to pull out of a module to use as microlearning. While employees can accomplish the objective before or after a training event, it is still contributing to the learning program.

Designing Each Module as a Complete, Measurable Learning Experience

An effective way to design microlearning is to work backward and start by deciding what learners should be able to do after each module. Then, map how each one contributes to a larger set of skills. Once the purpose is clear and mapped back to the learning program, choose a modality that best fits the specific purpose.

Microlearning can take on many formats, and each has its own benefits. Formats include the following:

  • Infographics
  • Infomercials
  • Short interactive videos
  • Games
  • Simulations
  • Podcasts
  • Animations
  • 3D models
  • Blogs
  • Slideshows

It’s important to include a measurement and evaluation plan during the design so you’ll be able to learn if and how the training is successful. These plans help create clear definitions for what success looks like and how that success is demonstrated on the job. Once established, the plan should also include how the microlearning will be updated and adjusted based on the results.

Don’t Reinvent the Content Wheel

Many times, training developers and instructional designers feel they need to start from scratch. In most cases, material already exists but is considered outdated or in the wrong format. Reviewing this content to see if there are ways to chunk it into single learning objectives and determining how you could convert them into newer formats can save time and give you a head start when working with subject matter experts.

Infusing your learning programs with elements of structured microlearning helps to balance your training and provides a flexibility that learning programs often lack. In addition, giving each microlearning module a clear and singular focus that learners can access as needed provides your audience with an enhanced experience both in and out of the classroom.