Microlearning has become an incredibly popular way to deliver online training but what is microlearning? Microlearning is defined as a way to learn that uses small lessons instead of long lectures. In microlearning, a large lesson is divided into single definable ideas or concepts that can be learnt in a short time.
Microlearning content can take many forms, including text, illustrations, videos, short audio snippets, quizzes, and interactive games, but they are always short in duration. In this blog, we cover some of the basics of microlearning, provide microlearning examples and dive into why more and more organizations are adopting micro-courses as part of their learning and development (L&D) strategy.
Microlearning is 17 percent more effective in knowledge transfer and increases long-term retention by up to 80 percent when used as a substitute for the actual event or as a supplement to the main presentation.
Why Use Microlearning?
According to a study in the Journal of Work-Applied Management, the benefits of microlearning training include:
- Better retention of concepts
- Better engagement for learners
- Improving learners’ motivation
- Improving learning ability and performance
According to Shift Learning, microlearning training has been shown to be 17 percent more effective in knowledge transfer. RPS Research discovered that microlearning training increases long-term retention by up to 80 percent when used as a substitute for the actual event or as a supplement to the main presentation.
Not only does microlearning increase information retention, since students learn at their own speed and review as needed, but the degree of customization offered by microlearning courses allows learners to focus on mastering their talents in a particular area of interest and expertise by allowing them to select the smaller pieces of learning that are most relevant to them.
Microlearning is well-suited for online learning which means that it offers learners flexibility when they take courses, opportunities for customized self-paced learning and options for mobile learning or M-learning. This has been particularly important during the recent pandemic which has propelled it’s popularity even further over the last two years.
In additional to all of these benefits, microlearning also allows learners to fit microlearning into their workday as they have time to devote to it instead of having to dedicate long periods of time to larger courses.
Microlearning for Employees
Today’s work life is interrupt-driven. A study by University of California-Irvine found that:
- An employee’s workday is interrupted every 11 minutes
- In between interruptions, employees accomplish many tasks, each taking about 3 minutes.
- If the job involves reading digital information, employees only spend 20 seconds per piece of content before he clicks or flicks to the next.
Another study by Deloitte found that the typical modern learner has just 24 minutes a week to spend on training and development. That same study also found that:
- Most learners won’t watch videos more than 4 minutes long
- Online designers only have 5 to 10 seconds to grab someone’s attention before they look away
- Workers get interrupted often by work applications and collaboration tools
Microlearning is an effective training tool for time-strapped employees. Microlearning modules are highly targeted and focused, with the goal of providing comprehensive knowledge without requiring a lengthy period of time.
Microlearning techniques can also support just-in-time (JIT) learning where employees can access information and training when and how they need it. Offer microlearning modules in video or m-learning formats and employees have even greater control of when and where they participate in their professional development.
Not only does including a microlearning strategy in your learning program have the benefits mentioned above, but employees also prefer to learn this way. According to Software Advice, 58% would be more likely to use their company’s online learning tools if the content was broken up into multiple, shorter lessons.
Is Microlearning Effective for Employers?
A microlearning strategy can pay big gains for employers as well. A study by academics at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) found that online courses had a dropout rate of about 96 percent over five years. With microlearning, various EdTech companies have found that they had completion rates of 74 percent or higher.
As mentioned previously, microlearning improves retention which means effective use of training dollars. A study by Raytheon found that microlearning improves retention by more than 80 percent. Other benefits of microlearning for employers include:
Less time away from the office — Microlearning reduces or eliminates logistic challenges and absences associated with traditional classroom training.
Costs less to train — Microlearning reduces the indirect costs associated with employees missing work in order to physically attend a training course.
Use employee’s time effectively — Bite size learning allows learners to retain more of what they learned so that they don’t have to retrain as frequently.
Encourages participation through easy access — In a research report by Association of Talent Developers (ATD), 41 percent of respondents said that the top benefit to microlearning is that learners can access it when it’s convenient.
Less overwhelming — The same research report by ATD found that 40 percent of respondents said that microlearning was less likely to overwhelm learners.
Easier to distribute — Since microlearning modules are smaller than long-form online training, they are easier to upload and share on the cloud than longer-form lessons.
Allows for creation of customizable training — Since the modules are shorter, it is easier to create more content that is targeted to a specific job function or persona. It is also easier to customize individual microlearning modules to different audiences.
Allows for Development of RLOs — RLOs or reusable learning objects is defined as self-contained resources that can both stand-alone and be integrated as a part of a larger course. In other words, it is content that can be reused for multiple purposes. Microlearning makes it easier to create RLOs which can be used in multiple courses and reduce the time and costs of developing training content.
Microlearning Benefits for Learning Creators
Due to their short duration, microlearning modules are more cost-effective to create when compared to traditional training. According to Ray Jimenez, PhD, learning developers can reduce development costs by 50 percent and increase the speed of development by 300 percent by creating microlearning modules instead of longer traditional courses.
Another widely quoted statistic cites that 94% of learning and development professionals prefer using microlearning techniques to long-form eLearning courses.
Opting for microlearning is also a great way to move towards rapid content development. Rapid content development or rapid course development is defined as an Agile instructional systems design model that features a preparation stage, iterative design, template-based reusable components and e-learning tools for rapid and cost-effective execution.
As we recently discussed in a case study for rapid course development, the model reduces many of the hurdles that can frustrate learning creators and reduce speed of training content creation. By opting for rapid content development, the company was able to have faster handovers of information between members within the L&D team, faster reviews of the actual content, and faster delivery of eLearning courses and instructor-led training sessions (ILTs).
What are some microlearning techniques?
Microlearning content can take many forms, depending on the topic, the intended audience, the learning objectives and the delivery mode. Examples of microlearning content include:
- Text: Quick-reference guides or summaries that are often coupled with images or videos.
- Video: Ideally less that 5 minutes.
- Audio: Like videos, material presented should be less than 5 minutes.
- Images: Includes diagrams, charts and illustrations.
- Simulations: To allow learners to have a hands-on experience to learn.
Adding interactivity to courses can increase engagement and completion. Spain’s IE Business School says they have higher completion rates for Moocs (massive online courses) due to interactivity. FutureLearn, an online course provider owned by the Open University, uses peer learning to increase completion rates. With peer learning, students discuss what they have learnt and share knowledge on the company’s social network.
Using automatic reminders or “nudges” also helps with completion of courses. MIT and Harvard’s joint online learning platform, edX, found that engagement was 30 percent higher when students were nudged.
While there is much buzz around microlearning, there are also many misconceptions that prevent people from using this learning technique. Here are three of the top myths:
Myth 1: Microlearning Is Only A Few Minutes
People often think that microlearning is typically 1-2 minutes but in reality it can be much more. The purpose of microlearning is to:
- Deliver training or learning of a single concept
- Reintroduce a concept your learners are already familiar with
- Answer a question about a task or concept that a learner may be struggling with
- Reinforce existing learning
- Incrementally add to the learner’s knowledge on a specific topic
To successfully achieve these objectives, it is not always possible to limit microlearning to a few minutes. Instead of worrying the number of minutes, focus on the scope of learning to a single concept or task.
Myth 2: Microlearning Is Just About Breaking Up Your Content
Microlearning is not about creating sections or chapters for your long training sessions. Instead, it is about delivering concise learning about a single concept that can be studied as a standalone topic, reinforced from previous learning and is typically related to a larger topic.
Myth 3: Microlearning Can Replace Traditional Training Programs
Microlearning is not a substitute for your traditional training programs. Use it to support your long-form training like quick how-to videos, introducing a topic, reinforcing a concept or providing learning for just-in-time tasks on what you are teaching.
Read more about these myths and other microlearning myths.
Training and Microlearning Statistics
Here is a summary of the interesting statistics from this blog and the web that demonstrate microlearning trends and why it is such a hot learning technique.
- A study from Germany found that microlearning content drives over 20 percent more information retention (Grovo).
- Microlearning training has been shown to be 17 percent more effective in knowledge transfer. (Shift Learning)
- When used as the main mode of training or as a supplement to the main presentation, microlearning training increases long-term retention by up to 80 percent. (RPS Research)
- Microlearning improves retention by more than 80 percent. (Raytheon)
- Without reinforcing learning, employees may forget to 80 percent of the content (Raytheon)
Employees’ Schedule for Microlearning
- An employee’s workday is interrupted every 11 minutes and in between interruptions, employees accomplish many tasks each taking about 3 minutes. (University of California-Irvine) This is why short microlearning modules or microlearning videos more often are a better fit with employees’ busy schedules.
- Modern learners have just 24 minutes a week to spend on training and development. (Deloitte)
- If the job involves reading digital information, employees only spend 20 seconds per piece of content before they click to the next. (University of California-Irvine) This is why when considering your microlearning templates, opt for options that are highly dynamic to increase its effectiveness.
- Learners typically disconnect after 20 minutes. (Skillhub)
- Most learners won’t watch videos more than 4 minutes long. (Deloitte)
- Online designers only have 5 to 10 seconds to grab someone’s attention before they look away. (Deloitte)
- Employees only have 1 percent of their work week to focus on training and development. (Deloitte)
- 58 percent of employees would be more likely to use their company’s online learning tools if the content was broken up into multiple, shorter lessons. (Software Advice)
- 41 percent of respondents of a Association of Talent Developers (ATD) survey said that the top benefit to microlearning is that learners can access it when it’s convenient.
- Learning developers can reduce development costs by 50 percent and increase the speed of development by 300 percent when they opt for a microlearning strategy. (Ray Jimenez, PhD)
- 94% of learning and development professionals prefer using microlearning techniques to long-form eLearning courses.
- Engagement is 30 percent higher when students were nudged or reminded to complete their microlearning training. (MIT’s and Harvard’s joint online learning platform, edX)
- The ideal learning time with the highest ROI is five to 10 minutes. (Skillhub)
- Talent development professionals think a microlearning module should be no longer than 13 minutes. The respondents also said that ideal length of a microlearning segment is 10 minutes, and segments between two and five minutes were most effective. (ATD)
Microlearning Best Practices
Here are tips to consider when designing your microlearning courses:
Keep it simple: Write microlearning content the same way as news articles are produced – clear, succinct, correct, credible, and whole. Learners don’t need to know every detail of every concept, stick to what they must know to be successful.
Create consistency: Establish guidelines for creating, approving, and releasing microlearning content so that you provide a consistent experience for learners. Consider including the following elements in every microlearning module – learning objective(s), dynamic content, and knowledge checks. Microlearning templates are a great way to create consistency, and a consistent curriculum development process will ensure you produce quality learning pieces.
Use “chunking” concept and keep it short: Ensure that the content is bitesize and focused on a single learning objective. Don’t try to fit too much information or too many concepts in a single microlearning module. According to Fox, 2016; Dolasinski & Reynolds, 2020), an effective microlearning unit usually lasts no more than three to five minutes.
According to a research report by the Association of Talend Development (ATD), talent development professionals think that 13 minutes is the maximum amount of time a training module can be and still be considered microlearning. The respondents also said that ideal length of a microlearning segment is 10 minutes, and segments between two and five minutes were most effective.
Include a graph or visual: A picture is worth a thousand words, and often helps to cement key concepts or learning objectives.
Offer across multiple media platforms: Releasing microlearning content across multiple mediums allows for increased access and repetition. This is especially true for microlearning videos which can be foundational elements of a mobile learning (m-learning) strategy.
Allow users to go back: One of the benefits of microlearning is that it allows for self-paced and customizable learning. Provide the flexibility for learners to skip forward or back and to easily find the content when they need it.
Offer exercises and gamify: Include hands-on exercises, quizzes and games that encourage trial and error. Learning by doing is an important aspect that increases retention.
Add reinforcement content: Don’t forget to include questions, practice exercises or reflection activities that help to reinforce key concepts, encourage engagement and increase the chances of retention.
Create curated learning paths: Prescribe multiple pieces of microlearning together in a training path so learners can gain broader knowledge and skills like they would with traditional courses, but on their own time and one bite-sized piece at a time.
Certify: Offering certificates of completion once learners have completed a defined number of microlearning modules can be a motivation factor. For employees, consider including these certificates in their HR profile.
Creating Microlearning Content with LEAi
One of the reasons that we developed LEAi was to make it easier for companies to take the content they already have and create microlearning modules from it.
LEAi, is our AI-enabled digital-course creator that helps teams to create content for instructor led training (ILT), eLearning, knowledge base articles, virtual class content, presentations, webinars and videos using content your subject matter experts have already created.
You don’t have to be a L&D specialist to use LEAi. Our tool is so easy to use that everyone from HR to sales enablement can convert existing content they have into learning content that follow best practices – in minutes. Key benefits of LEAi include:
- Use content that exists
- Be guided by best practices
- Update existing courses fast
- Repurpose content easily
- Use the content to create different learning delivery modes
- One-click microlearning!
With LEAi, you can take transform traditional courses into multiple microlearning modules with the click of a button. Our tool supports 3 ways to create microlearning content from existing content you already have:
- Chuncking: Logically break the content into smaller, easier to consume pieces.
- Condensing: Condenses the content into a smaller, shorter piece of learning while still covering the main learning objectives.
- Concept-based: LEAi uses AI to analyze the content and determine the concepts being taught and breaks it into one microlearning course for each concept.
If you are considering adopting a microlearning strategy, creating more microlearning content or updating existing content and you need a tool to help you accelerate the process, talk to us!