With faster cycles of technological change and innovation comes a greater urgency for upskilling.
A study by Capgemini and LinkedIn found that 29% of employees worry that their skills are outdated, and 54% of organizations say they have lost competitive advantage due to a shortage of digital talent.
Perhaps even more disturbingly, more than half of all employees reported that they found the training programs run by their company to be unhelpful, “useless and boring” or they are not given time to attend.
However, the average employee only has time to devote 1% of their work week to professional development. For those who work 40 hours a week, this translates to 4.8 minutes a day.
Thankfully, there is a way to meet the skill needs of the future while taking into account the needs of busy, 21st-century workers: microlearning.
So, what is microlearning?
Microlearning is short, focused learning designed to meet a specific learning outcome. Modules are three to six minutes long and often are made up of rich media (e.g. videos, quizzes, and games).
As a result of these attributes, learners and businesses benefit in a number of ways.
Learners benefit from:
- Personalized learning
- Information that is available just-in-time
- Higher rates of retention
- Better accessibility
- Self-paced learning
- A more engaging way to learn
Businesses benefit from:
Because of the modular nature of microlearning courses, learners have the flexibility to focus on lessons that matter the most to them.
Furthermore, each lesson aims to achieve one or a few learning targets. This gives course creators the flexibility to create different types of content for each lesson (e.g., videos, summary sheets, exercise files, quizzes, and games). This allows learners to take in information in a way that suits them best.
Have you ever looked up a fact to end a dinner table dispute? Or skimmed a menu on the way to a dinner reservation? Or looked up directions on Google Maps?
If you have said yes to any (or all) of the above, you’ve just engaged with some form of just-in-time learning.
What microlearning does is move that concept to the workplace. With access to a microlearning course, learners are equipped to learn skills and find solutions as soon as they need them.
This brings us to the next benefit – higher retention rates.
Microlearning improves retention of information for three key reasons: courses are accessible on-demand, modules are short, and they are designed to be actionable.
As opposed to traditional, offline training, microlearning can be accessed online at any time and anywhere. This means information can be accessed at the point of need, thereby increasing its stickiness.
Our brains aren’t wired to maintain focus for long stretches of time. Microlearning accommodates that with modules that are intentionally short to match our working memory capacity. This prevents cognitive overload, which is especially useful when learning about complex topics.
Finally, bite-sized lessons are intentionally designed to meet a narrowly defined learning outcome. This sets up each lesson to be highly actionable. In this microlesson on creating PivotTables, learners can test their skills with the exercise file and quiz just seconds after they learn about it.
New information in our working memory is temporary. It is either encoded in our long term memory, decays, or gets replaced. When we attend to and integrate information in our working memory, it becomes encoded in our long-term memory.
As mentioned above, microlearning modules can be accessed at any time and from anywhere. Learners can start a module at work, access it on their mobile while commuting, and continue learning on a tablet when they get home.
This flexibility democratizes learning for those who are especially time-poor (e.g. new parents and commuters).
Think back to the last time you took a course in a group setting. There were probably some concepts you grasped quickly and some that could have benefitted with extra time.
Offline, group training is designed to match the average pace of learning in the room.
Which means that fast learners can grow disinterested in the content, and slow learners can get left behind. Microlearning eliminates this problem because the content is entirely self-paced.
Each microlesson sets out to achieve one or very few learning outcomes. This gives course creators the flexibility to use ‘unconventional’ methods of transferring information – like videos, storytelling, or games.
Furthermore, microlearning can employ gamification tactics – where learners can earn XP (experience points) or badges to make learning more engaging.
Businesses also benefit from employing microlearning in their learning and development programs. Not only does it have a higher ROI in terms of higher retention rates, but it’s also less costly than traditional forms of training.
According to learning architect Ray Jimenez, PhD, in his book 3-minute eLearning, learning developers that create micro courses can reduce development costs by 50% and increase the speed of development by 300%. This is because:
- There are fewer overheads in micro course creation as opposed to traditional offline training. There is no need to rent classrooms, pay for instructors’ time, and purchase classroom equipment.
- It is easier and less time consuming to update digital information, especially if the content is short and modular.
Microlearning modules are far easier to distribute than longer-form elearning modules. Smaller file sizes are better suited to cloud storage, which means that employees can access training anywhere.
Shifting traditional learning and development online also means that a growing sector of the workforce – remote employees – are not excluded from company benefits. One way businesses can do this is by migrating course content onto a cloud-based LMS that can be accessed anywhere.
A major concern with online learning is low retention and completion rates.
According to a report from Software Advice, more than 50 percent of the survey respondents indicated that they would use their company’s learning tools more if the courses are shorter. According to them, longer courses are not only more challenging to digest and retain but taking them also gets in the way of their daily work.
Over to you
Not only does microlearning address the needs of the future while meeting 21st-century learners where they are, but it also comes with a multitude of benefits for learners and businesses alike.
If you’re interested in trying out a microlearning course, you can sign up for a 7 day free trial on GoSkills.
About the Author: Krystal Tolani
Krystal does all things marketing at GoSkills, an online learning company that helps anyone learn business skills to reach their personal and professional goals. When she's not at work, you can find her listening to podcasts or watching comedy specials on Netflix.