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Rapid Fire Education: Microlearning in the Modern Workplace
Mary Bedard

Microlearning refers to relatively small learning units or concepts and short-term learning endeavours. The term is mostly used in e-learning fields with the idea of quickly earning processes in specific environments. Microlearning is an approach for skill-based learning and education which deals with small, manageable learning units. It involves short-term strategies for acquiring knowledge quickly as it relates to the work environment.

Microlearning basics

The fundamental principles of this learning approach have been well established and rooted in cognitive science. We are just now coming to the realize the potential of microlearning, thanks to the confluence of factors driving the conversation. While microlearning can have many different meanings to various industries it does seem to share four fundamental characteristics. Those elements are focus, brevity, flexibility and informality.

The approaches used for assessment of microlearning are varied in nature and can also sometimes be tailored to particular cases. The technique is capable enough to address challenges associated with slow learners. This learning technique is versatile for skill base learning as students can learn quickly and easily the requirements of any process or task.

Elements of microlearning

When we speak of focus in microlearning we are referring to the fact that the content of this type of learning is broken into distinct pieces of very specific information. That gives it a unique focus and purpose. Brevity means the learning of microlearning is completed in a short and specific amount of time. The value gained in microlearning can sometimes be achieved in as little as one to five minutes. That is how effective it can be in learning procedures that employees may not be familiar with or use every day.

The notion of flexibility arises when we explore the various formats in which the learning can be delivered. Some examples include learning through videos, eLearning tools, animation or even read to read PDFs or pictures. Flexibility can also refer to the location users can access the learning such as at work, at home or on the go using wireless devices. The principle of informality in this type of learning comes into play when we consider that microlearning is often times less structured than traditional training and can be created by the learners themselves.

Some goals to consider with microlearning

When thinking of a self-directed micro-learning strategy, there are some goals to consider from both an individual and organizational perspective. These objectives will make the learning easier and more productive for everyone involved.

The first such goal should be to incorporate microlearning into the regular flow of work.With the emergence of a digital workplace, change is the only constant. Therefore, the nature of work itself must evolve to keep pace with technology. Employees and employers alike are keenly aware of the need to gain skills and knowledge in order to remain relevant and to achieve business success.

The question becomes then, how can microlearning help? Microlearning can assist learning and development programs to deliver learning exactly when a learner needs it. Examples include quick videos that teach important processes or procedures in a software program. Or PDFs outlining detailed specifications and features of your new product line. Another example could be learning modules that demonstrate sales skills an employee could quickly access before a presentation to a client. Microlearning delivers learning when and where it is needed so that employees can get back to work. It is also instrumental in for reinforcing skills or processes that employees may use less often, but still need to be able to manage or process at work.

Make mobile learning a priority

Microlearning and learning on the go will lead to successful and effective learning strategies for the whole organization. The vast majority of learners are now free from the confines of desktop computers. That means they can use their wireless devices, so that learning can take place anytime, anywhere they have a reliable Internet connection.

As workforces age and a younger generation enters and begins rising within the ranks, their learning styles are becoming a key consideration. The compact nature of microlearning supports this preference, giving workers the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Also, the flexibility of microlearning can serve the needs of different learning abilities and preferences. Depending on how the learning is delivered learners may be able to choice their favourite learning mode such as watching video content, reading, PDFs or engaging in interactive online learning.

Microlearning in a regulated industry

For employees in highly-regulated industries, mandatory compliance training comes up at least once a year, if not more. Moving to a microlearning approach for this type of training may pay additional dividends to employers. Microlearning can be especially effective for learning the compliance skills required because the mandatory elements and courses can be divided up into smaller and more digestible parts.

In this way, employees can be encouraged to learn the key elements first and later capture the full picture. Compliance training also typically ends with in-depth testing or assessment, which can be easier when learned in smaller parts. To incorporate microlearning into compliance training, consider the needs of the employee and how they can best absorb the information. Then you can make a plan to deliver it most effectively to those who require it.

Microlearning is results specific

Microlearning is focused on a specific result and applies only the content that is necessary to achieve those results. This makes it shorter and much more targeted than a traditional course. So, microlearning is not about duration, rather it is about focused learning a specific skill or gaining capacity quickly in a new field. Microlearning can also foster an environment where learners are able to become co-producers of content through active social participation. The feedback employees provide becomes germane to adapting and adjusting content for other learners. The modern definition of microlearning suggests microlearning is an action-oriented approach offering manageable sized learning that gets learners to develop, act, and practice their new skills. It provides the educational content in small, well-planned units mostly through mobile applications, which do not require the undivided attention of the employees but rather makes it simple and easy to follow.

No matter if microlearning is used informally or as a part of a structured learning plan, microlearning has a few consistent features. Microlearning events are typically short, though there is no set-in-stone rules around the duration. Also due to their brevity and purpose, microlearning often focuses on a narrow topic, procedure, concept or idea. And lastly, microlearning content can be in many forms such as a presentation, activity, game, discussion, video, quiz, book chapter, or any other format from which someone learns quickly and effectively.

Some key benefits of microlearning

One key benefit of microlearning is that employers see immediate results. Microlearning enables a person to easily close a small knowledge or skill gap. For example, some institutions of higher learning like colleges or universities are using microlearning strategies to help students with collaborative and social technologies, such as how to set up various social media accounts.

Microlearning is most useful and meaningful when it combines obligatory content and additional knowledge and skills that employees choose to access themselves when they need it. What makes it so incredibly valuable, is that they have the means to keep on learning and growing without taking too much time away from their other important duties within an organization.

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