Some Macro Thoughts on Microlearning

What’s that they say, good things come in small packages?  This is true for the latest technologies, expensive jewelry and green vegetables, but what about effective training?  I say the answer is… yes!  Let’s face it, life is busy, deadlines are always looming and time to immerse in new skills and knowledge is much harder to come by, so talent development professionals are getting on the “micro” bandwagon.

But can you really build valuable skills in micro bites? After all, five to 15 minutes of content is nothing like a one or two-day class. Or is it? Good instructional design has always grouped learning into manageable and logical chunks. With microlearning, the chunks are morsels and they have to be able to stand alone well, while still delivering value. This can be a tall order. 

Independent microlearning bites

It’s true that developing small bites with a compelling beginning, middle and end can be something of a challenge. Especially when you consider that just because this is micro does not mean it’s just building awareness. That’s the definition of an infomercial, not training.

I’m finding the key is selecting narrow slices of the full pie. Let’s take a training topic many have some experience with (either as the giver or receiver) managerial coaching skills. A solid one or two-day course on coaching might:

  • introduce a model like GROW (grow, reality, options, will) ,
  • ask learners to consider different coaching “roles” rather than a “one approach fits all” method,
  • provide modeling, and
  • give the learners a chance to role play coaching in the safe environment.

This same content can be delivered in microlearning bites with just a few tweaks. Those bites might include:

  • Using the GROW model – a short video or self-running PowerPoint on this simple model for effective coaching conversations ending with a comprehension quiz
  • Hat’s off to the coach – a four-part microlearning series on the most common roles or hats coaches wear to move employees forward, each including practice identifying the right hat for a coaching situation
  • Coach me – a video or written set-up of an employee in a specific situation needing coaching that asks the learner to write or record a response… “How would you coach Sam?”

While microlearning has to be able to stand on its own, it doesn’t have to be the only method for instruction. It can be used in combination with more traditional training as a micro-introduction to prime the pump for a more effective session. Or, it can reinforce learning after a session so that people don’t revert back to their old patterns.

Remember the Field of Dreams mantra, “If you build it, they will come” Unfortunately, this is not the case with great training. Microlearning brings around new challenges on how to ensure completion and organize the bites into a cohesive picture. I’ll explore each of these in upcoming blogs.

For now, I’ll say that I am getting more and more excited about the opportunities microlearning brings to professionals. This approach to learning can deliver just the boost we need on our quest for continuous growth and development, without weighing us down. The challenge is turning interest into action. See you next time!