5 Must-Haves for Microlearning to Make it Effective

Posted by Belinda Huckle  |  On December 13, 2019  |  In For HR/L&D Professionals

If you’re looking for a different approach to traditional learning and development programmes, microlearning could be the answer. Microlearning, broadly defined as training delivered in short bursts on a narrow topic, can take many forms and styles. Videos, podcasts, webinars, infographics, interactive Q&A sessions, E-learning modules or even plain text-based emails. Microlearning can be delivered using one or more of these methods to best suit the subject and the audience.

A woman microlearning through E-learning on a laptop

Why is Microlearning Important?

Microlearning can help you achieve learning results in a short span of time and avoid employee information overload. Delivering your training in bite-sized units can be a good way to educate your team if they’re time poor and unable to commit to a longer workshop or course.

Some of the many microlearning benefits include:

  • Flexibility in when and how your training is delivered
  • Focused, relevant content for higher retention
  • Smaller chunks of information that are easier to comprehend and action straight away

However, microlearning does have its limitations. It’s not generally suited to topics where an in-depth understanding is required as unlike a typical workshop or training course, it’s difficult to deep dive into a subject.

Advantages and Limitations of Microlearning

If you need to share new basic information or build on the existing knowledge of your team, microlearning is a fast and efficient method. In the workplace topics such as OH&S practices, harassment or anti-bullying legislation and equal opportunity training are ideally suited to short, targeted learning blocks of microlearning. When it comes to assessing the suitability of microlearning, think of subject matters that can be adequately covered in just a few short sessions of say 30-45 minutes each.

However, when it comes to developing in-depth skills or coaching behavioural change, microlearning has its limitations. Unlike a fully-fledged workshop, it’s difficult to deep dive into a subject during a short session, and of course short sessions don’t allow time for discussion by participants or for that matter individual practice time of whatever is being taught. If you did try to include these elements, the time frame to deliver all these learning aspects would in most cases be unreasonably long. 

As an example, if you used microlearning methods alone to develop business presentation skills in your team, it could take a year or more of one-hour sessions to achieve the desired level of expertise. Compare this to running a one or two-day workshop with an experienced coach (and possibly some microlearning modules to compliment the training) and you’ll achieve the same results in a fraction of the time.There’s also a risk that some of your employees may not take microlearning as seriously as they would longer forms of professional training. As a result, to be a success both in terms of learning outcomes and achieving maximum ROI, microlearning must be really hit the mark.

5 Must-Haves to Make Microlearning Effective

Microlearning on a tablet

Read on to discover the 5 must-haves to ensure your microlearning programmes make a real difference.

1. Know your people

The first step is to understand who might benefit from this type of training and identify how you can best engage them. Talk to them in person, or via you regular Training Needs Analysis process  or via an ad-hoc survey to discover:  

  • What training do they feel would benefit them: Is it better knowledge of your customers, your products, your industry? Do they want to gain additional technical skills or qualifications? Or do they hope to develop further professional or soft skills? 
  • How they would like to learn: Would formal microlearning interventions suit them or informal learning-on-the-go options? What format is more likely to deliver the outcomes they and you want? Instructor-led sessions, scheduled webinars or self-serve online modules for example? 

Depending on how busy, skilled and experienced your people are, you can opt for gamified microlearning activities like quizzes, interactive videos and more. There’s an array of microlearning platforms that offer features like L&D content management, gamified learning, leaderboards, analytics, and even rewards and incentives. 

An effective way to capture and hold the attention of your audience is through personalisation. Most platforms allow you to create a personalised profile for your learners so they can see their progress and how they compare to others completing the training.

Once you have this information, you can fine-tune your content and choose the best approach to be sure it hits the mark and maximises your training ROI.

2. Focus on a single, reasonable outcome

Before you develop your microlearning, spend some time defining a clear objective. What is the key outcome you are hoping to achieve? No matter how short and sharp your course is, if the objective is not clear to the learner it’s unlikely to inspire them. 

Be sure to make it clear from the start what your team will get out of it. 

For example, if your employees are working in a retail shop, the microlearning could be focused on improving product knowledge of new lines. Or if your employees are regularly liaising with internal and external stakeholders, your outcome may be to improve confidence in business presentations

Whatever topic you choose, ask yourself three questions: What will the learners walk away with after the training? Is the learning outcome relevant and achievable within the given timeframe? And how will this learning benefit them and the business?

3. Make microlearning engaging and practical

Like any other L&D programme, your microlearning must be engaging and practical. Just because it’s shorter doesn’t mean you can get away with poor delivery. Keep the content on target and make sure everything is 100% relevant. 

For high retention and comprehension, your microlearning should have a strong focus on learning by doing. Include plenty of small, useful practical tasks that are easy to implement to reinforce the information.

This could take the form of a short quiz or practical activity. If your training outcome is to teach people how to develop more effective slide decks include a best practice check-list of what to do and what NOT to do to ensure impactful slides. This adds real value to the learning and will help improve skill set as well as confidence.

4. Choose the right formats

When it comes to microlearning, getting the format right is a must. But with so many delivery methods available, how do you choose? 

It’s important first and foremost to know your people. Getting a feel for their preferred way to learn and understand when and where they will be completing the learning will often guide you in the right direction.

For example, a podcast or video can be a great option for employees who may be tuning in on their daily commute as they can easily pop their headphones in and listen and watch as they go. 

On the other hand, some members of the organisation may prefer more traditional styles such as a PDF or text-based emails so they can read and review them at their own pace.

To make people retain and further develop their understanding of the topic, provide learners with access to follow-up resources and reference materials. This could be in the form of reference or ‘further reading’ links to relevant websites, internal live chat groups or sessions with internal coaches or champions.

5. Create rewards and milestones

A small reward or incentive can go a long way in motivating your team to do their best. Include milestones at regular intervals to help them track their progress and feel a sense of achievement. You can also add rewards such as a certificate or badge for completing stages and topics.

You may also wish to add a leaderboard so your team can see how their efforts compare to their peers. This provides some extra motivation and encouragement to complete the training as a priority rather than letting it slip down to the bottom of the to-do list.

Bite sized chunks, maximum impact

When delivered well, microlearning can be a really fast and effective way to achieve your L&D goals. It can be tailored to suit the needs of the learner, and because it’s completed in small blocks of only a couple of minutes at a time, it’s manageable, even to the busiest employees.

For maximum impact, microlearning must tick a few important boxes. It should have a single outcome that is clear from the start, be relevant and engaging, delivered in an appropriate format and offer incentives and rewards to help your team push on and get it completed. 

When you can do all of the above, you’re well on your way to rolling out a successful microlearning campaign.Have you identified a skills gap in your team’s business presentation skills? We provide specialist training programmes for groups and on a one-to-one basis. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you close the gap.

Belinda Huckle

Written By Belinda Huckle

Co-Founder & Managing Director

Read Bio

Belinda is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SecondNature International. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training both In-Person and Online, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.

Belinda believes that people don’t have to change who they are to be the presenter they want to be. So she developed a coaching approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.

She has helped to transform the presentation skills of people around the world in an A-Z of organisations including Amazon, BBC, Brother, BT, CocaCola, DHL, EE, ESRI, IpsosMORI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Moonpig, Nationwide, Pfizer, Publicis Groupe, Roche, Savills, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.

A total commitment to quality, service, your people and you.