Microlearning is one of the biggest trends in all of educational technology—and for good reason. When designed correctly, the short, bite-sized chunks of information provide ample opportunity for learning, skill development, and knowledge retention.
But what is microlearning? Microlearning is a learning strategy that offers short, task- or goal-oriented content that is focused on a specific topic, skill, or learning goal and presented in engaging and easily applicable ways, such as a short training video, an infographic, or a checklist of steps for solving a problem.
Science indicates that short, repetitive learning increases knowledge retention by reducing cognitive load and supporting natural memory formation. Microlearning is also designed for use during or directly before application, which helps connect the information to its intended purpose, improves skill development, and enforces behavioral adaptation. And with the increases in mobile technology allowing information to be accessible any time and anywhere, it’s no wonder microlearning is growing so rapidly.
But microlearning isn’t simply breaking traditional eLearning (or traditional learning, for that matter) into smaller lessons; it’s about creating engaging and interactive content that focuses on a specific task, topic or learning goal. So when designing microlearning content, make sure to adhere to these important steps:
Understand Your Audience
This should be step one in any educational setting. It’s impossible to structure lessons and learning objectives unless you understand who you’re teaching. Are you training first responders how to properly administer CPR? Could your sales team use a refresher course on key features before a sales pitch? Understanding your audience will not only dictate the learning objectives but also the type of content used to deliver the lesson.
Focus on a Single Learning Objective That Is Must-Need
The key to building great microlearning content is making sure that each piece of content focuses on a single, specific learning objective that bridges knowledge gaps for must-need knowledge. Must-need knowledge is knowledge that is vital to the task at hand rather than information that, while important, can be learned another time.
For example, if you need to replace your car battery, the microlearning lesson should focus only on the information necessary to complete the task and omit any information about what the battery does, how it works, and what other systems it’s connected to. That information can, and should, be linked to at the end of the lesson for the learner to go back and review at their leisure, but it should be avoided when building microlearning content.
Keep Content Under 10 Minutes
While there’s no hard rule on how long microlearning content should be, the general consensus is that it should be somewhere between 2 to 7 minutes but under 10. While exceptions exist, often times the reason content extends beyond the 10 minute mark is due to over-explaining or including too much irrelevant information. Creating great microlearning content requires the ability to edit information and be concise.
Utilize Multimedia Approaches
It’s been proven that people learn better when presented with words and graphics rather than words alone. Microlearning provides a great opportunity to utilize multimedia like videos, flashcards, games, and more to create engagement and facilitate deeper learning. When creating microlearning content, make sure to take advantage of this approach and avoid large chunks of text only.
Include Interactive and Collaborative Elements
In-app quizzes, chances to share your experiences, and gamification are great ways to include interactive and collaborative elements to any lesson for increased engagement, higher completion rates, and improved knowledge retention. As you put together your microlearning content, try to think of ways you could incorporate these elements. For example, if you’re training employees how to fill out an expense report, include a sample expense form for them to fill out at the end of the lesson.
Link to Other Relevant Content
One of the best ways to utilize microlearning is as a training/support tool. So it’s important to link to other relevant content at the end of microlearning lessons. This could mean linking to a relevant microlearning lesson or to other non-microlearning sources to gain a more information on the subject to create a more holistic understanding. For example, after watching a video tutorial on how to administer an insulin shot, the lesson could link to sources for more information about diabetes, insulin, and how to manage blood sugar levels for further learning when available.
Microlearning is an effective, cheap, and easily consumable educational strategy that is best for task- or goal-oriented learning, skill development, and training. But certain features must be included for microlearning to be successful. So make sure to plan ahead of time and remember these steps when creating microlearning content for your training/educational needs.