microLearning: Your Time Has Come

microlearning as a nest

microLearning: Your Time Has Come

microLearning – a standalone fragment of training content – is a training approach you can readily include in your learning stream to respond quickly to the training and development needs of your audience. It also helps you make your training – eLearning or classroom based – sticky.

microLearning is one of those concepts that can be difficult to wrap your head around, but once you ‘get it’, you wonder what took so long.

I’m privileged to live beyond the River Shannon, in the West of Ireland. I am surrounded by pine trees, old laurels, and thick hedgerows. This morning, I’m having a cuppa watching the two usually vocal magpies acting suspiciously furtive. I watch them select twigs from the ground and with deliberation hop branch by branch to a nest just beginning to appear near the top of a tree.

Those carefully chosen and placed twigs are deftly woven together to form a complex, stand-alone structure fit for purpose. Without the careful intervention of the magpies, they would just be a stack of twigs.

Like the nest, a training course is built from many components parts – chunks – that an instructional designer intelligently weaves – scaffolds – into a stand-alone structure fit for purpose. Without that intelligent application of structure, a training course is just a loose mound of information. (We’ve all been subjected to those courses!)

microLearning can be thought of as the twigs in the nest. Each small component of microLearning content – a minute or two at most – stands on its own. For example, training for salespeople may include a short video or presentation on how to handle one specific customer objection. The information is useful in itself, but an intelligently structured collection of microLearning events form a complete training programme. (And like any training, can be assessed and lead to certification.)

Why is microLearning such a big deal lately? Is this just another fad? Definitely not.

Companies and their staff are being expected to do so much more with so much less. Few companies have the luxury of sending people to a training event – though there is an inherent advantage to time set aside for training – and the rise of mobile devices as tools of work has shifted the paradigm. Those genies are out of their bottles and they are aren’t going back in.

So small components of training delivered just in time, consumable in ‘found’ moments, delivered via any device, including mobile, has been a solution searching for a problem. (I’ve been involved in microLearning in different forms for almost a decade now, and the field existed long before that.)

Also, if you have a body of microLearning content available, you can easily resend content at pre-defined intervals or in response to an uptick in challenges with or queries on a specific topic – such as to the helpdesk – to help make the training more sticky.

From a content development viewpoint, retooling to include microLearning in the learning stream is not a massive undertaking. It involves chunking the information in a way suited for reuse as microLearning and structured for delivery via a variety of delivery vehicles such as corporate social networking sites, Twitter, Facebook, texts, and so on. Break those 10 minute screens in your eLearning course into segments you can easily extract for reuse.

microLearning is a valuable tool in the learning and development hero’s toolkit. Explore using it in the next training material you’re going to develop and experiment with using it. I’d be interested to hear how you get on.

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Michael McGovern