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The Dynamics of Microlearning

What Is Microlearning?

The more things change, the more they stay the same — especially with employee education. Despite the whirlwind of change in recent years, many employees still feel too busy to spend time with active learning, much less processing and applying it. That’s why many employers use microlearning as part of their corporate training strategies.

Check out our quick guide to learn what microlearning is, why it matters, and how to incorporate this strategy into your workforce learning program.

Learning in the Real World

Microlearning is a learning method that delivers content in digestible short bursts. It’s usually delivered via an online platform, such as your learning management system or a mobile app. This learning method is an effective way to absorb new information quickly and retain it over time. Microlearning works exceptionally well for busy learners who have limited time for formal coursework.

Microlearning can supplement or replace traditional learning methods. It gives employees more freedom to learn on their own terms. Compared with traditional learning, microlearning is more accessible and flexible while requiring less personal investment.

How Microlearning Benefits Companies

Microlearning is an increasingly important part of many corporate learning strategies. Consider these three ways this approach benefits your organization.

Helps Employees Learn New Skills Faster

Microlearning is a more efficient way of learning that helps people quickly master skills and concepts. Time is always in short supply, so employees are more likely to engage in brief online learning modules than a full e-learning course. They get a return on their investment in a fraction of the time.

Because microlearning is more engaging than traditional methods, these mini-modules tend to be more interactive. When learners are more engaged, they’ll have better learning outcomes.

Microlearning is also highly adaptable to individual learning styles. There are so many types of bite-sized learning activities that almost everyone will find something that resonates with them. This flexibility ensures more employees complete learning courses and retain what they’ve learned.

Finally, microlearning promotes learning that’s just in time, or need-based. You can set up learning workflows so that, as employees take on new tasks, they receive a prompt to engage in a relevant short-form video.

Improves Employee Engagement

Employees are more likely to engage in microlearning activities because the time commitment is less. But such programs also support greater employee engagement by allowing employees to take control of their learning. Giving your people access to a variety of microlearning modules across topics helps them find the content that resonates most. The ability to explore content libraries and access many topics can even help guide people’s career decisions.

Microlearning also supports engagement by building a sense of community. Knowing that their peers are engaged in learning can open conversations and encourage workers to apply learning topics in the flow of work.

Bite-sized learning also helps employees see the relevance of what they’re learning. Because microlearning modules are targeted, employees using them for training will immediately see why they’re taking the course and how they can apply it. That specificity and relevance helps employees engage with learning and their work.

Reduces Training Costs

Microlearning can benefit your budget when it supplants other forms of time-consuming and costly worker education. It’s intentionally short and to the point by cutting to a concept’s core. Microlearning is functional, giving team members what they need when they need it without bogging them down in details. Because employees can absorb the most relevant information in less time, they’ll spend fewer hours overall in training while covering the concepts you need.

A strong learning catalog also reduces the need for specialized trainers. Having an extensive library of micro-modules empowers team members to educate themselves on their own time

Engagement is a big factor in reducing costs, too. Live learning events or full-length courses have their benefits, but if you invest in those opportunities and employees don’t use them, you could be throwing away money. Employees can access microlearning across computers or mobile devices as time allows. Microlearning’s ease of use and on-demand availability increases user adoption and the value of your investment.

How to Design an Effective Microlearning Strategy

Microlearning has the greatest impact when implemented with direction and intention. Take these steps to develop a program that powers workforce growth.

Set Clear Goals for the Program

To make the most of a microlearning program, it’s important to outline exactly what you’re trying to achieve. That’s especially important for something as mission-critical as learning and development. Most employers today are focused on closing skills gaps so their people thrive in a changing, digital-first world.

Technical skills, for example, are evolving quickly. Microlearning modules can help your employees get up to speed on new tech quickly, making it easier to manage tech-driven change. If you’re trying to keep up with shifting technical skills, you’d define your greatest learning needs, then design a learning program to achieve them.

Identify Learning Objectives

You can use microlearning programs in many ways. As you develop the program, it’s important to prioritize which application is most important. Are you trying to build a library of tactical, task-related content, for example? Or do you want to enhance soft skills across the workforce?

Whatever your priorities are will influence how you design and deliver microlearning. If you’re leaning into softer, transferable skills, for example, you’ll want to design learning modules that demonstrate how to apply new concepts in the flow of work.

Select a Microlearning Platform

Microlearning tools are becoming more popular in the HR tech market, which complicates your purchasing decision. To facilitate learning journeys, you need a microlearning platform that’s flexible and integrates with your workflow management software.

Most microlearning platforms include a bank of content. Go further and ask about customization and configurability options. You want control over what employees learn, when they learn, and how you deliver content. Look for a platform that supports configurable learning journeys and connects with your workflow management software to build on previous learning experiences. Prompt employees by setting triggers within your performance management and career progression processes. These prompts help your people embrace microlearning modules at the points where those lessons have the biggest impact.

3 Types of Microlearning Courses

There are a variety of microlearning courses to choose from. Consider incorporating these types of learning modules into your strategy.

Task-Related Training Content

This is the most common type of microlearning content. It’s directly related to specific tasks and roles. A payroll coordinator cross-training as an HR coordinator, for example, might rely on a series of microlearning modules to get a better sense of HR’s tasks and duties.

Scenario-Based Learning

Scenario-based, or situational, learning helps employees learn to make better decisions. It’s often delivered in a choose-your-own-adventure presentation, where employees are presented with a challenge and must react. This model of microlearning is especially helpful for applying and training soft skills.

Gamified Learning Modules

Gamification is a popular learning trend. Games like quizzes or matching exercises prompt learners to test what they’ve learned in a fun, engaging way. The combination of fun and accountability (such as quizzes) helps people stay focused when learning. And because we’re humans and enjoy competition, gamified modules are a great way to keep workers coming back for more.

3 Microlearning Best Practices

Microlearning offers tremendous benefits for employers and flexibility for workers, but only if your program is calibrated to your workforce’s needs. Your microlearning strategy should evolve as you receive and apply feedback from your people. Here are a few best practices that lead to excellent microlearning offerings.

Help Workers Apply Learning Outcomes

Knowledge retention comes from application and reinforcement of concepts. Align particular courses or microlearning modules with specific learning experiences for team members. When they can practice the concepts they’ve learned, they’re more likely to retain the learnings and improve their performance.
Incorporate microlearning into your workflows. This helps workers apply what they’re learning in real time. For example, you could trigger prompts for specific modules during onboarding, helping new hires learn about their core job responsibilities.

Workflow software, like Enboarder, can make a big difference in how people apply learning in the flow of work. Since Enboarder integrates with learning platforms like Udemy, you can set it up to nudge employees to jump back into learning, or to prompt them to take microlearning courses related to their skills and interests. That keeps learning top of mind, and helps people apply those lessons in real time.

Implement Feedback Loops

As with any people program, collect feedback from users to identify what you’re doing well and where your program could be improved. Pulse surveys are one way to ask team members about their learning experiences without putting them on the spot. Talk to managers, too, to find out how your program has affected performance in their eyes.

As you gather feedback, consider potential changes to your microlearning program. The better you can make learning experiences, the more effective your microlearning program will be.

Create a Community of Learners

Connecting people along shared learning journeys and experiences reinforces learning outcomes and drives engagement.

An engaged community can amplify the success of individual learners and prevent people from feeling like they’re alone on the journey. Develop digital groups where learners engaging with similar topics can connect and exchange ideas. Reinforce learning by tagging specific courses to volunteer mentors or advisers who can help learners dig deeper into a topic.

Microlearning: Bite-Sized Lessons With a Big Impact

If your employees struggle to find time for learning, don’t sweat it: There’s a lot you can accomplish without taking hours or days out of the workday. And when employees collect microlearning experiences over time, they’ll improve their knowledge, processes, and output. That performance improvement can transform your workforce and prepare your business to thrive in any environment.