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Can We Agree On Microlearning?

One thing everyone in the learning and development industry seems to agree on is that there is no clear definition of microlearning. At Learning Solutions 2018, and at ATD this week, we have discussions with other industry experts and practitioners about what microlearning means, and everyone seems to have a different opinion. 

We can’t define microlearning by a number of minutes, or lack thereof. We can’t define it by the content it presents. We can’t even define it by the delivery method. So, what can we agree on? 

At Roundtable, we see microlearning as a methodology that allows us to create low-fluff, high-impact learning modules in a way that imparts the most crucial elements for just-in-time learning. Microlearning is often based on former or existing knowledge and builds upon itself to limit unnecessary relearning. 

What we should agree on: 

Repetition isn’t always the goal. 

The goal isn’t always repetition. When done well, microlearning modules become a system that delivers training that recalls former learning, while still teaching something new. 

For example, consider “how to” or product demo videos. If you need to understand how a software product works, you don’t want to sit through the same intro every time. You want to quickly pinpoint the issue and find a short (we’ll get to that), relevant video or learning module about your specific issue. 

Predicated on the assumption that you already understand the product as a whole or the overall lesson, microlearning doesn’t waste time on introductions, transitions between lessons, and recaps. 

There’s no “best” time. 

You know that saying, “it’s done when it’s done”? This is the best time estimate we can give you for microlearning. Yes, it should be short; we keep most microlearning courses under 15 minutes. However, building a bunch of two-minute courses doesn’t automatically mean you’ve created effective microlearning. Microlearning should be short enough to fit the “micro” bill, but long enough to transmit and engage. 

Build strategy, not chunks. 

One of the most common things we hear is that microlearning is just “chunks” of knowledge or training. Not only is this an oddly unflattering description of the rather svelte microlearning, it also gives the impression that if you break a piece of long-form learning into equal, small pieces, you automatically made microlearning. 

Microlearning should be informed by a greater strategy. The content of each micro lesson should be unique, to-the-point, and compelling. Microlearning should build upon itself to deliver a new skill over time. 

Video rules. 

Microlearning doesn’t always need to be delivered via video, but it is a great vehicle for just-in-time content. While you can create eLearning and ILT micro courses, a strong video learning piece can deliver measurable, buildable learning on almost any device. If you can integrate quick interactions and knowledge checks, you’re even better off. 

Did you learn anything new about microlearning at ATD? Let us know!

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