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What is Microlearning?

Time vs. money vs. ROI. This is the struggle all CEOs struggle with. And when you need to train employees or even yourself (I’m looking at you, freelancer!), you must consider these three and balance them.
But what if there is a fourth element we’re all forgetting? I’d argue we’re forgetting efficiency.
I once ran a training program for employees at the non-profit I worked for in New Mexico. In a non-profit, especially one mostly funded by the state government, you must train your employees to state standards while staying on a meager budget. State training programs are not efficient.
We spent too many hours training our staff. During that time, we paid overtime to other staff to cover shifts. Was there a better way to train staff?
I’d argue yes. But we didn’t have the knowledge to implement better training.
Today we’re going to talk about how to train both staff and yourself more efficiently through microlearning techniques.

What is Microlearning?

While it’s not true that our attention spans are as short as a goldfish’s, it is true we understand learning better than ever. We used to think that if we sat people down and talked at them, they’d learn. Now we know that’s not the best way to teach.
It’s also not the most efficient way to learn in a business environment. This is especially true when the average person has only 1% of their workweek open for training and development.
Enter microlearning. Microlearning is exactly what it sounds like. A style of teaching where the teacher or program gives information in short, engaging bursts. If you’ve heard of microlearning, you likely associate it with short training videos, but microlearning can be much more.
One major advantage of microlearning is mobility. It relies more on technology than traditional styles of learning. An employee could take the last ten minutes of their workday, complete a module and go home. They could do this over the course of a month and learn more than they might in a concentrated format.

What Are the Different Microlearning Formats?

In this guide, we’ll cover the five different types of microlearning. The first one is the most common and that’s video.

1. Video Microlearning

Have you ever sat through a long-form training video? The restraint part of our redirection and safety course required students watch overly long videos on restraining techniques. These videos were dull, slow, and the actor sounded like Ben Stein on an illegal substance.
Students would leave the training glassy-eyed. And when quizzed on the techniques, they could not perform even a rudimentary version.
While gloss helps in a short video, it’s about engagement. The videos did not engage the mind or the imagination. And they caused students to look at their watches.
If you’re going to create a video training module, keep it engaging. Pack it with interesting knowledge. If you’re teaching physical skills, invite the learning to participate and use visual graphics to allow the mind to track the movement better.
Lastly, microlearning isn’t microlearning unless it’s short. That means the video should be five minutes or less.

2. Gamified Activities

This doesn’t include ice-breakers. Sorry. This means serious gaming.
Ok, maybe not Overwatch pro league gaming, but progressive leveling and competition. You might have to hire someone to develop training material in game format.
Not only is gaming a great way to give information, it’s a great way to collect it. Just like in Ender’s Game, it’s entirely possible to gain insight into employee strengths and weaknesses through game data.

3. Short Articles With Quizzes

If your employees are reading reports all day, you don’t want to overwhelm them with content. Your information will be lost in a sea data.
Shorten that information and feed it to them at the beginning of the day. Their brains will be fresh, they’ll be more likely to complete the task, and you’ll see an increase in skill.
Again, do this over a period of time. Require employees to do one quiz a day. To prevent cheating, use a program that locks out the article once the quiz begins.
Keep those quizzes short and relevant to the content.

4. Infographics and Quizzes

Similar to the short articles, infographics are bite-sized information packets with the added benefit of visuals. These usually pack together a bunch of statistics. But infographics can include charts, images, and other graphics.
The infographic’s ease of digestion is its advantage. Our brains, especially in the digital age, love to scan for information. It’s as if we were designed to pick up subtle clues for survival.
You can quickly glance through an infographic and understand the ideas it’s trying to express. That is if it’s a well-designed infographic. At the end of the infographic, include a quiz and see how much better your employees learn with infographics.

5. Hands-On Learning

We all have learning strengths and learning weaknesses. Your brain learns best when all senses are engaged. This is why using hands-on learning overcomes most people’s learning weaknesses.
Of course, gamification falls under this category. But there are more ways to make material hands-on. This could include role-play, puzzle-like software, or even physical object training for physical skills.
If you read about how to operate a gun, could you be proficient at using one right out the box? No. You need to practice shooting to become proficient at shooting.
It’s the same with most skills. You can’t just listen to someone talk about a skill and expect to use it the next day. You need practice.
Give your employees a chance to practice even if it’s in a short amount of time.

Microlearning is the Best Way to Balance

Time, money, RoI, and efficiency. Microlearning is the best way to balance these things. Try implementing microlearning with one department and see how it works. If the training fits, use it.


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