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  • Ashleigh Hull

How Microlearning Benefits Learners: An Apology From L&D

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Dear Learner,

We know how busy you are. You’ve got a job, a family, a social life, and a pressing biological need to sleep. There are only 24 hours in a day, and realistically you can’t commit more than a few minutes of that to formal learning.

Up until now, L&D has not acknowledged that. We’ve sent you on day-long training courses that seem designed to waste your precious time. We’ve produced hours of elearning so boring you might actually be catching up on that sleep while you’re clicking through it. We’ve force-fed you compliance training that’s full of things you already know, and then asked you asinine questions about it.

We are truly, humbly sorry.

And we promise to do better.

There are so many ideas and technologies out there, all suited to different situations. The solution you need might be a classroom training session, or a workshop with your peers; a VR experience; a traditional elearning course; a game-based learning app on your phone. Most likely, the solution you need will be a blend of several things. Microlearning is not a magic, one-size-fits-all solution. It won't do it all, and it won't work in every situation. But it can definitely help save you time.

Microlearning is learning that comes in bite-sized chunks. But not one course broken arbitrarily into little pieces - microlearning, done properly, consists of self-contained pieces of learning that make concepts easier to understand, remember, and therefore apply.

And this is great news for you.

This means that instead of having to wade through hours of stuff you already know, you can pick and choose the chunks of learning that you actually need and ignore the rest. If your employer needs to check compliance, the learning could include a short quiz at the beginning to assess what you already know, and then build you a customised learning path of only the microlearning chunks that you need to fill your knowledge gaps. No more soul-destroying compliance training.

This means that you can make use of those spare 5 minutes while you’re waiting on a train platform or between meetings. You don’t have time for an hour-long course; but you can easily work through a single microlearning chunk.

And this means that when you need to know something immediately, you can. You’ve just had a big presentation for tomorrow dumped on your desk; you can make use of some microlearning about presentation skills. A new product is hitting the shelves today; you can run through a microlearning module about it in the 5 minutes before the store opens. Microlearning means that when you need to learn something now, you can. You don’t have to go on a day course or click through the first 5 sections of an elearning module to be able to get at the information. It’s just there, at your fingertips.

Obviously this is good news for things you’ve forgotten as well. Microlearning makes it easy to go back over a concept that you didn’t quite get the first time - information is easy to find, and easy to absorb. When you’ve forgotten how to retrieve an answerphone message from your office phone system, you don’t have to wade back through a 100-page course to find that paragraph on how to do it. You just open the microlearning module.

And microlearning can make it easier to learn something complex. Rather than trying to grasp the whole thing in one go, working through individual microlearning chunks can help you to steadily build up the bigger picture. You can take it one step at a time, new ideas building on old ones, like pieces gradually being added to a puzzle. All that time you used to spend with your head in your hands, despairing of ever understanding or remembering all this information - saved!

You’re still going to be busy. Microlearning won’t solve all your problems. But it can alleviate some of those demands on your time, leaving more of it to do the important things. And from now on, we in L&D will do all we can with it to make that dream a reality. Yours, Learning Developers

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