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Is microlearning just the latest buzzword in L&D?

Insight

05 September 2017

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Microlearning is having a moment.

It’s been around for a while, but in 2017 microlearning is beginning to make the transition from buzzword to legitimate and effective L&D approach within organisations. Research conducted earlier in the year by the Association of Talent Development found that 38% of organisations were already using microlearning and a further 41% plan to start within the next year.

In addition, microlearning was named as one of the key trends in Bersin’s report on the disruption of digital learning earlier this year and we’re beginning to see specific microlearning platforms such as Curious.com, Axonify and BoostHQ appear in the market. Clear signs that this more than just the latest fad.

It’s no surprise really. With our fast changing needs and time poor environments, it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of microlearning and the many challenges it could help overcome.

However, as with any new tool, L&D professionals need to fully understand the benefits and limitations of microlearning, whilst considering where it can truly add value to their existing approaches to learning.

 

What constitutes microlearning and what doesn’t?

It’s a common understanding that to be classed as ‘microlearning’, the learning has to be delivered in bite-sized chunks. However, it’s certainly not about taking your existing content, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks, and calling it microlearning. Content needs to be granular and self-contained so your learners are able to consume any piece of content in any order.

There’s also quite a lot of speculation on the length something can be before it’s allowed to be classified as microlearning. However, it is generally agreed that it should be under 15 minutes if we are talking about bite-sized chunks, with many leaning towards the 5-minute mark. Remember though, the key is what you’re trying to help your employees learn. Focus on the content and not just the length of it.

 

So there’s no need for lengthy training courses anymore?

No, you’ll still need other forms of learning interventions. Microlearning isn’t appropriate for learning everything. For example, microlearning doesn’t help people to learn brand new or abstract concepts or skills where you might need open discussion and feedback. You wouldn’t be able to teach your managers coaching skills through microlearning alone, but small bursts of microlearning to complement their learning journey could help to reinforce key elements along the way.

Another popular use of microlearning is in employee onboarding. For example, short videos on ‘how to book holiday’ or ‘how to transfer a phone call’ enables new employees to have that “just in time” resource to upskill themselves.

It’s clear that microlearning is more than just the latest buzzword. Microlearning can be a great addition to your L&D toolbox, but it’s not a standalone training solution that will instantly build knowledge and skill gaps. Instead, it’s best used to help reinforce learning and can play an important role within your existing learning journeys.

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