“Microlearning” has become something of a hot industry topic in the past few years. That’s not because it’s new—in fact, we’ve been creating microlearning content since 2004. What’s happening is that people are realizing the benefits of microlearning as more and more companies are incorporating it into their training programs.
In fact, one report from PR Newswire estimates the microlearning market is expected to grow to $2.7 billion by 2024 (from $1.5 billion in 2019). That growth is a sure sign that most corporate training is going the way of microlearning in the future.
Having worked with microlearning for so long, we’ve had time to study and perfect it. For example, we’ve figured out the ways in which microlearning appeals to adults in light of what adult learning theory says. We’ve also taken a deep dive into the science behind microlearning to see not only why it works, but how it should be done for maximum results.
What we’ve come to realize, in conversations with HR professionals, is that while the science is super interesting, what’s needed to get the ball rolling in most organizations are clearly articulated microlearning examples and benefits that show the value behind this kind of training. The bullet points, if you will, that make the case for switching training programs to microlearning-heavy content.
We’re happy to provide those here! Microlearning:
- Provides learners with relevant content
- Reaches your learners where they are
- Creates an opportunity for blended learning
- Allows for self-guided learning
Provides Learners with Relevant Content
Did you have to pay for your own textbooks in college? Remember the frustration of paying hundreds of dollars for a textbook out of which you ended reading and using only seven of the twenty chapters?
No one likes paying a premium for something when they need only a small part of that thing. This is as true of training content as it is of college textbooks. For example, let’s say you have an employee who is, for the most part, an excellent communicator. They have strong written and verbal communication skills in general—but they have trouble participating in meetings. (Perhaps they aren't assertive enough, or just have trouble persuading others.)
If you send that employee to a day-long workshop on communications skills, you’ll be paying for the entire day, even though they really need some pointers on a few critical skills. The alternative? Send them a series of microlearning videos solely related to those critical skills—in this case, being assertive, or persuasive communication. That way, their time can be spent zeroing in on where they really need development, rather than sitting through a training that is largely redundant and time consuming.
Not only is using microlearning more cost effective, but learners appreciate it more as well. Part of what employees find so cumbersome about training is the time it takes out of their day. While there are things you can do to motivate your employees to make time for training, they will respond better to short-form video they can watch anytime, anywhere, as opposed to long-form video or in-person training.
Reaches Your Learners Where They Are
Working from home (or remotely) was a trend even before the 2020 pandemic forced large scores of people to do so. And for many employees, this will end up being a permanent change.
Coordinating training sessions for a dispersed remote workforce is a challenge. If you’ve tried it, you are already familiar with the struggles of different time zones and incompatible schedules. Microlearning allows your remote or on-the-go employees to consume training content when it works for them, whether they are seasoned traveling employees or part of your newly minted pandemic work-from-home workforce.
For example, imagine having a video library where your employees can access topics anytime, anywhere. How might they use it?
- A parent with young kids at home can fit in a quick 7-minute training course while the kids are glued to the latest episode of PAW Patrol.
- Your traveling salesperson can take a 5-minute refresher course on overcoming objections while grabbing a cup of coffee on the road.
- An international employee who may not be able to attend a live session because of time zone differences can catch up on their required training during normal daytime hours that work for them.
As you can see, microlearning gives you the best of both worlds. As long as bringing employees back indoors to take training is a questionable idea, microlearning content can help meet them where they are. But when (if?) the day comes that they do return, there is still value in the flexibility that microlearning affords, especially when it comes to supporting remote and mobile staff.
Creates an Opportunity for Blended Learning
Microlearning does not necessarily mean the death of instructor-led training. While watching a training video might seem like a solitary task, it is also an important tool that enables blended learning.
Take, for example, the standard instructor-led class. It can be difficult to align everyone’s schedules to get a group of people in the same room, at the same time, for an extended period of time. How much productivity is that taking away from their day? How many people will miss that session because of something urgent that popped up, or because of a scheduling conflict?
Now, with microlearning content available online, learners can consume content whenever they are so inclined. When they come together with others in a Zoom meeting or in person, that time together can be spent on other things, like diving deeper into discussion points, answering questions, thinking through applications, and reviewing.
Blended onboarding programs are a great example of using microlearning in just this way. In a more traditional onboarding, an employee spends much of their first day listening to standard presentations about an array of topics: Company benefits and payment structure, policies, compliance, you name it. And that’s on top of learning people’s names and titles, not to mention where the bathroom and break room are. In the traditional model, employees would receive an overwhelming amount of information on Day 1.
Now imagine, instead, an alternative onboarding program where new employees are given short training videos on a number of standard topics well before their first day. They can now use the week or so before their official start to review those company benefits with their family. When they sit down with HR on Day 1, it’s much more of a discussion: They ask questions, clarify those policies they are still confused about, and have plenty of time to find the break room.
Allows for Self-Guided Learning
Imagine, for a moment, two eLearning training content libraries: One is filled with 2,000 long-form training videos (think 30 minutes+ per video), while the other is filled with 2,000 short-form microlearning videos (think 7-12 minutes on average). Which library do you think an employee is more likely to peruse in their free time?
Most organizations want employees to spend time doing more professional development but struggle to get employees to do more than the bare minimum required when it comes to training. A big part of this has to do with the inconvenience of most training. But if you make training something they can do over a 10-minute coffee break, as opposed to an hour-long chore, they are more likely to get it done.
Here’s a great example we encountered recently: A Generation Z employee who had pretty strong verbal communication skills would get flustered when leaving a voicemail, eventually tripping over their words and leaving messages that were close to nonsense. That quirk certainly wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was something they wanted to work on. They are used to sending a text and not leaving a voicemail message.
Would that employee make time for a full-day communications workshop? Or an hour-long presentation? On leaving voicemails? Probably not. But they were very motivated to watch an 8-minute presentation with tips on how to leave effective voicemails. Not only did that course help with the voicemails themselves, but it made the employee feel more confident and capable—and those improved communication skills reflected well on the company, too.
For the most part, employees want to improve themselves and do better at their jobs. But to turn that desire into a reality, they need convenient, useful tools at their disposal.
Microlearning Examples Are All Around
Microlearning examples and benefits are all around, if you have an interest in finding them. Here we focused on just four:
- Sending an employee short-form content on specific skills they need to develop,
- Providing training for work-from-home, on-the-go, and international employees,
- Using microlearning for a smoother onboarding experience using blended learning.
- Empowering motivated employees to pursue their own self-improvement.
From these we can see a pattern forming:
- Microlearning makes sense when the skills needed are specific (being assertive, leaving voicemails) rather than broad or vague (“communication skills”).
- It is useful for reaching a broader audience whose needs, schedules, and even locations vary greatly.
- It can convey needed content quickly, leaving time for other important activities.
It makes us wonder: Why isn’t all training done with microlearning content these days? How can we help more organizations who are struggling to make the transition?
- Whitepaper: The Science of Microlearning
- Training Challenges in the Workplace, 2020 Edition
- How to Use Online Training During a Home Quarantine
- How to Buy Content for Your LMS (And Not Regret it Later)
- Case Study: Brewer Science Finds Training Efficacy with Microlearning