In this article I'll share my top 10 tips for developing microlearning content and programmes to really capitalise on its many benefits.
1. Keep it snappy
Creating concise, focussed content is harder than it sounds. Don't fall into the trap of bloating content and taking it off focus. An individual piece of microlearning should be short and snappy (typically 1-5 minutes), and should generally cover a single objective.
Do this well, and your single piece of microlearning can not only provide value as part of a training programme, but it can also serve as an effective performance support aid - providing information on-demand long after the initial training.
2. Consider your information architecture
Are you aiming to teach a concept, present a fact, explain a process, outline a procedure, provide a checklist, or something else?
When developing microlearning programmes, start by identifying the distinct types of content you want to develop and present. Define a type-set and avoid blending different types in a single piece of microlearning. Avoid the tendency to create larger pieces that force people to filter and skim read to get to what they need.
Appropriate content types for microlearning nuggets might include "concept", "fact", "process", "procedure", "checklist", "survey", "knowledge check" and so on.
3. Schedule it
Unlike a conventional piece of eLearning, which is delivered and consumed once as a single unit, microlearning lends itself to drip feeding on a scheduled basis. This provides added benefits and enables you to apply proven concepts such as 'spaced learning' and 'spaced repetition' to reinforce important concepts and improve knowledge retention.
4. Embed it
Requiring people to visit your Learning Management System (LMS) to find relevant microlearning runs the risk of limiting uptake and limiting benefits as a result. A better approach is to embed microlearning right into the applications and systems that your users use every day. The LMS can then fade into the background and take on the role of tracking user interaction with the content.
Doing this requires a few technical capabilities including embeddable content launch links that offer inline content previews, single-sign-on to ensure a smooth user experience and so on. This approach will become increasingly commonplace in modern digital learning platforms.
5. Select the right forms of content
Video and audio works really well for microlearning. It packs more of a punch than a page of text. It's appealing (if done well) and it's ideal for cross-device consumption on smartphones, tablets and desktops. This point is particularly important. Microlearning needs to be available at the point of need, so mobile support is paramount.
Video, audio and mobile play very well together. Additionally, the principle of repeated recall is important, to check and reinforce knowledge retention. You can do this by including regular knowledge checks, quizzes and surveys within your microlearning programmes. These might be packaged together with a video as a single unit accessed at the end of the video, or may be deployed as separate standalone assets interleaved at spaced intervals between video and other content nuggets.
Other forms of content such as infographics, games and simulations also work very well as microlearning assets and can provide added variety.
6. Don't let the quality slip just because it's short
The quality of web, video and App content in general are continually improving. Consumers have much higher expectations in this regard than ever before.
Sub-standard content (even if it's only a minute long), poor video or audio quality, unwanted background noise and so on are a sure way of quickly switching off learners.
7. Make it relevant
Requiring people to wade through irrelevant content is another great way of ensuring learners have little appetite for more. One size rarely fits all and with microlearning and the right platform to deliver it, you have the opportunity to personalise content giving individuals exactly what they need to make them more effective at their job.
Techniques to help deliver relevant content include basing it on a user's current knowledge level, perhaps based on a previous assessment, their content access history, or pathways that other users with the same or similar job roles have followed.
8. Make it fun
Why not add the fun factor? Microlearning is well suited to the application of gamification, which rewards people for proving their expertise over time. It also challenges and motivates people to move up leaderboards, and be seen as champions or experts in particular areas. Gamification can further add to the appeal of microlearning and can help encourage and incentivise people to regularly come back for more.
9. Consider the social element
Do you have a question about the latest piece of microlearning? Something you don't understand? Who else has completed it recently? Who can I ask? Enable this type of connection.
Have you just reached an expert level having completed a microlearning programme with flying colours? Then why not become a champion and be ready to help others undergoing the same training programme to master the same skills.
Did you find the latest content useful? Then 'like' it, share it, and recommend it to let others know.
Social learning strategies fit very well alongside microlearning and can augment it in many positive ways. This again illustrates the importance of having a capable platform for delivering microlearning effectively.
10. Apply it in the right scenarios
Microlearning is not for every scenario. For example, it's not appropriate for learning scenarios that demand practical activities, the real world application of knowledge, and feedback on performance and learning. It's also not appropriate for many more complex subjects that require more immersive and deeper training methods.
Microlearning can however add significant value when applied in the right scenarios. Here are just a few good examples:
- Before and after formal training interventions to help level-set and then reinforce key learning points.
- Performance support scenarios where people require specific information at the point of need, for example help on applying a procedure or understanding a process.
- Induction training, where content can be drip-fed at regular intervals throughout a new employee's initial period of employment.
- New IT systems implementations - providing steady streams of tips, tricks and best practices to ensure the workforce gain the most benefit from new systems.
- Scenarios where ongoing awareness amongst your staff is paramount. Cyber security and security awareness training is a very good and very topical example of this.
Numerous factors are conspiring to ensure that microlearning has a key part to play in the future of workplace learning. When built in the right manner and delivered via platforms offering the right set of capabilities for storing, embedding, managing, tracking and searching for content, you can gain the dual benefits of effective upfront learning, and a resource library offering performance support long after the initial training.
The most effective digital learning platforms will enable you to seamlessly deliver microlearning in addition to the more conventional, in depth styles of classroom and online training.
I'm CEO and Chief Learning Strategist for Agylia. My role is to help people and companies design and implement eLearning and mobile learning strategies.