With so many jumping on microlearning’s bandwagon, is it the big L&D heist many experts argue – or is promise lurking? As always, it comes down to execution. We’ve shared 5 microlearning examples and best practice tips to help you hit the mark.
What is microlearning?
Microlearning is a way of providing small, specific pieces of content to an audience, ideally where and when they need it. It’s not a new idea, and its effectiveness has been debated within the learning industry. Short pieces of content don’t necessarily equal good learning or improved performance, as we’ve argued before. However, in the right context and done with the overall experience in mind, it can be highly effective.
Why consider microlearning?
In a world where people are checking their smartphones 9 times an hour, and competition for attention is now extra fierce, it’s no wonder that shorter digital learning content is becoming more popular.
Modern workplace learners want to access content on smaller devices, on the move and in stolen pockets of time – on trains, over breakfast, before meetings. If you want to gain traction for your content, you should consider how to target those tiny windows of opportunity.
However, it’s key that microlearning isn’t used as a vehicle to deliver lots of content randomly. That would misuse the small amounts of time modern learners have and disable the learning from sticking. Here are some ways to deliver microlearning, smartly.
5 microlearning examples and tips to go with them
1. A menu of focused topics – learning design masterclasses
Our masterclass microlearning menu. Bottled up with tips, advice and inspirational demos from our network of experienced learning consultants.
This microlearning example pulls together a collection of related topics to help the audience access help as and when they need it.
Why it works:
- The topics are clear and distinct, with each one focusing on achieving a specific design outcome for authors using Elucidat. This means no time is wasted searching for the right information
- Each Masterclass is a snappy 2-3 minutes long, so getting a refresher of key information doesn’t need to feel like an arduous task
- Every topic includes 20 seconds of theory, 3-4 in-depth demos, a “how to” and some expert tips – a model that’s reused consistently across the whole suite so users aren’t having to learn how to navigate something new each time
2. A diagnostic and personalized toolkit
There’s no reason why microlearning can’t be a super-smart personalized toolkit.
This digital learning resource updates and adapts with the user, recommending the best next steps to take, for them. It uses a diagnostic to identify the user’s time management strengths and flaws. Then, it serves up a shortlist of practical tips and tricks and useful digital content that’s tailored to their needs.
Why it works:
- By asking a few questions upfront, it builds a picture of the user’s habits and weaknesses
- It uses social polling to show how the user’s answers compare to their peers’
- The answers are replayed in regular reports to encourage reflection
- User’s time is respected as they only get served the most targeted, relevant content, served up by using the rule-based branching feature of Elucidat
- It delivers ongoing value with daily round-ups, curating the latest relevant Anders Pink content
3. On-the-job support
Learning shouldn’t be separated from the day job. Short, snappy performance support resources designed to be used “on the job” make elearning practical. They often go down well with learners, as they’re designed to be succinct and useful above all else.
This example of a product knowledge resource illustrates how a well-designed, responsive digital resource can put practical performance support literally in the palm of a salesperson’s hand.
Why it works:
- It’s pared right back to only the practical content the user needs to do their job
- Images and formatting help to highlight key information at a glance
- It offers true on-the-job reference support, as well as just-in-case learning
- There’s a clear structure, so it’s easy to dip in and out at the point of need
- It works seamlessly across devices (crucial for real-time performance support)
4. A digital one-pager
Sometimes, it makes sense to shift away from click-through topics and house all the essential points and examples as a scrollable one-page resource.
This example of a multi-language, micro pre-boarding resource gives new employees essential information without overwhelming them ahead of their first day.
Why it works:
- It provides a well-branded, holistic experience on a simple scrolling page
- The user can select their desired language
- Only addresses what the user really needs to know
- It includes a jump menu so users can jump to the section they need or use it to know where they are and what’s left
- The user can send questions to their manager or coach via chat and email features
- It signposts to existing content are provided (rather than replicating it in elearning form) so can be easily kept up-to-date and relevant
5. Use of multimedia and microlearning menus
A menu that houses short microlearning topics around a given skill area is another example of providing quick, essential tips that users can turn into action. This interactive helps people build skills in multimedia design for learning.
Produced in collaboration with Nice Media, this interactive enables users to sample audio and video content, followed with a single page of concise tips and tricks.
Why it works:
- The menu gives the user control over their learning path
- Use of multimedia to provide concrete examples for each section brings the topic to life and makes it much more engaging and useful
- The navigation menu makes it easy to jump back to the beginning or skip to different sections, rather than forcing users to click through all of the content
Note! – lots of these elearning examples can be gifted into your Elucidat account (or free trial) so you can see how they’re made and use them as a starting point for your own content!
Expert tips to get your microlearning strategy to deliver
1. Be the answer
If there’s one lesson to take away from why Google is so popular (and obviously there’s a lot more than this!), it’s because it answers your questions.
We could call this the three S approach:
- Situation: Got a flat tire.
- Seek: Look up how to fix it.
- Solution: Fix it.
In a work context, it can be tempting to take a whole course on; for example, conducting performance reviews and breaking it into bite-sized chunks to make it “micro.” But this can still miss the mark. A manager about to conduct a performance review will have specific needs, such as being unsure when to deliver constructive feedback or how to deal with a certain challenge in the conversation. A performance review is a scenario that will be different for everyone, every time, so the learning needs to reflect that.
Run a survey to ask your audience what they need help with, and see the results in your analytics dashboard. Then, design for microlearning content for those needs. See how this can be done in practice in this elearning example.
Nick Shackleton-Jones, who rails against the microlearning hype, explains how taking a Q&A approach helps shape resources that are useful and short – read his thoughts here.
2. Be useful
Armed with evidence of what your audience actually needs – as well as some evidence of specific performance gaps that need to be closed – you are now in a good position to create short resources that are genuinely useful.
Ignore the plethora of content you might have up your sleeve, and instead focus on designing resources that provide the answers to those questions you’ve uncovered. Work in specific solutions to the problems your audience is likely to come up against.
Concentrate on the media that can best deliver the help that’s needed. Use videos of experts answering specific questions, PDF downloads, infographics, digital guides, interactive diagnostics and more. Curation is king here. The microlearning examples above all do this really well.
3. Be holistic
We don’t tend to practice skills or behaviors in a siloed way, but instead deal with what’s in front of us. Why learn them in a siloed way?
A huge benefit of going micro with your learning is that you can enable individual learners to build up competency and skills in incremental steps, and keep them coming back to your product for more. This is something we talk about in this related microlearning article.
If you’re brave, you’ll not only go micro, but do it holistically. Consider being topic agnostic and designing a microlearning strategy that focuses on enabling individuals to work toward personal improvement goals. For example, goals to perform as better team members, self-leaders, collaborators, motivators, creators, leaders of others and more can each share the same resources – as well as some that are particular to that area. Users can be empowered to use the resources and experiences on offer to reach an overarching goal, with a little guidance.
Check out the way curious.com approaches its microlearning topics.
While not all learning is workplace related, chances are you’ll inspire more people to use your content if there’s an obvious personal development goal (i.e., Do I put a hazard sign up over the spill in the kitchen because of my health and safety training, or because I care about others?).
Re-think your categories and tag multiple resources so they can sit under multiple “holistic” umbrellas. The added benefit to designing holistically? Your microlearning strategy can help you identify and build business leaders for the future.
3 hurdles to overcome before embarking on microlearning
Cutting down your content still comes with some obstacles you need to acknowledge and overcome.
- Shine through. Given the amount of digital and workplace tasks and noise thrown at people, microlearning has to be really good to engage an audience at all.
- Actually help! You’re being paid to improve performance. Working up “content” does not equate to effective learning experiences, or useful performance improvement resources.
- Personalize. One person’s useful resource is another’s white noise. Tweet this!
Congratulations for making it to the end of this article. Your attention span made it! (Plus, the whole attention span spin isn’t necessarily true – and neither is the myth about goldfish memory!).
Don’t be scared to go deeper – microlearning isn’t always the right approach! A lot of learning needs dedicated time to build up and stick. Here are some tips on how to really deliver with microlearning.
The key to any successful digital learning project is to hone in on the goals and create solutions that work for those and the audience(s). If you’re not sure on the best approach for your elearning project, download our project planning template. Or see this useful guide to elearning best practice, including microlearning!
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