Microlearning: The Right Training, Right on Time

By: Georgette Nicolaides, Consultant

As training budgets and training time shrink, organizations are giving microlearning a second look. Microlearning is training that consists of a small chunk of learning that takes less than five minutes to consume and is focused on one performance objective. It is typically optimized for mobile learning and supports continuous improvement initiatives.

Microlearning can quickly build expertise within your organization by supplying employees with just-in-time training, when your employees need it. While training often results in an “info dump” with little long-term retention, microlearning makes information readily available at the employee’s moment of need.

microlearningWe recently assisted one of our clients in creating microlearning to quickly disseminate a modified customer service focus. While the team members involved had just passed an extensive training course, the microlearning quickly broadcast the leadership’s new focus – the performance objective – and provided employees with helpful customer service phrases. Our client used its learning management system (LMS) for the video and included a five-question quiz.

Not all microlearning needs to be within an LMS. Knowledge base articles and videos, wikis, blogs, infographics, and even outside internet sources can be used. The key is to make training resources available to your team members (or customers!) when they need the information. In this way, it’s similar to “pull” marketing, where learners are drawn to a source. Learning is under the learner’s control, which differs from the typical “push” model of training.

Carla Torgerson of the Association for Talent Development recommends what she calls the “Three Cs”:

  • Curate: Collect the “best of the best” information from a variety of sources, making sure to schedule periodic validation of any outside sources
  • Create: Develop customized material that meets your organization’s needs
  • Crowdsource: Empower your employees to share with one another through wikis and in-house social media tools such as Yammer – this requires trust on your part, but is also key to ensuring that the training is effective

Microlearning may not be your best training approach in every case. For instance, it’s usually not helpful for new or complicated material. But for contained information or updates (e.g., policy changes, software bug fixes, or extending previous learning), this Agile approach can quickly and seamlessly deliver big gains for your organization.

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