As a valuable bite-sized asset to the world of online teaching and training, microlearning stands as an effective instructional approach. Microlearning approach aims at fewer efforts, quick delivery, easy learning and immediate application. But how could microlearning be deployed for employee training and development?
What is Microlearning?
Microlearning is a new eLearning approach in the fields of education and training. It delivers training in small and compact learning modules that are easy to grasp and process for increased retention and productivity. Microlearning offers 3-5-minute long content modules on a specific theme that save time and cost.
The key aspects of microlearning include granularity — focusing on narrow concepts, brevity — being short and precise, and variety — delivering content in the form of videos, presentations, discussions, quizzes, book chapters or activities. These aspects make it an impressive tool for building a resourceful employee training plan. Microlearning not only ensures faster learning delivery while maintaining the quality of training but also provides short, focused nuggets of relevant content.
Read on to explore the core elements of microlearning and their significance for effective employee training.
Key elements of microlearning
Microlearning has captured the online training industry with its effective tools and methods of employee engagement that no other format of instruction has. It uses animation, videos or pictures in a story format to capture learners’ attention. The recursive format of microlearning enables a top-down understanding of the content-at-hand to ensure a grasp of all elements of the module for further learning.
This holistic approach to learning offers a detailed view of the topic under discussion, and the learner consumes more content in a shorter span of time. A comprehensive online training software could be employed to deliver content in microlearning format.
- Content precision: With the unlimited amount of information available online and mobile accessibility to this information, learners lose track of facts they intend to study. Microlearning delivery cuts down the overwhelming details and delivers only facts and associated information. Such precision of data enhances the meaningfulness of information while increasing retention of the learners. A microlearning white paper — ‘Bite Size Is the Right Size’  substantiates this claim by stating that the content offered through microlearning is current, more engaging, and promises more completion, application and retention.
- Flexible modules: Microlearning functions in two basic formats — ‘Must learn’ and ‘learn on need’. The former includes modules that employees must undertake. The latter, on the other hand, is a set of content that organizations can introduce to their employees on a need-to-know basis. Since microlearning content is learner-driven  and comes in 1-3 minute segments, it is both reusable and effective.
- Interactive learning: One of the prime features of microlearning is its interactivity with the learner. To build an engaging learning environment, various teaching and training techniques can be designed using the microlearning approach. They include short videos to enhance the blended learning experience, games to gain performance-improving feedback, blogs to encourage discussion among the trainees, infographics to compress and simplify the content, podcasts as refresher tools, etc.
- Faster learning delivery:4 out of 5 working professionals believe that microlearning is altering knowledge acquisition process by delivering the learning modules effectively within the workflow (Job and Ogalo, 2012).
The just-in-time learning delivery through microlearning has been found up to 7 times more effective than formal, traditional form of training (Formica et al., 2010). Given the speed and precision with which microlearning delivers training, 58 percent of employees say they would use their organization’s software if modules were shorter (Brian Westfall, Software Advice).
- Cheaper mode of instruction: The 2014 Training Industry Report  states an 11.7 percent hike in the employee training expenditure, bringing it to a whopping $61.8 billion. The report expects the maximum amount, approximately 44 percent of the total employee training expenditure, to be spent on online learning tools and systems. The organizations that were hit with this increased cost had appointed stand-and-deliver trainers in a classroom setting for 47 percent of training hours.
Microlearning is an instructional tool that makes teaching and training cost effective by shooting down the expenditure of hiring instructors, investment in classroom equipment for traditional classes, and by considerably reducing infrastructural and up-gradation costs.
Significance of microlearning for effective employee training
Employee training is the core of all organizations. Motivating employees to partake in orientations, product demos, shift to advanced technology, etc. is crucial. Microlearning is an effective all-rounder, beginning right from developing readiness among employees to the reinforcement stage. Here is how microlearning could be employed to train your employees effectively:
- Enhanced employee engagement: A 2013 Gallup report marks that 70 percent of American employees find work engagement challenging, which accounts for a productivity loss of $450 billion to $550 billion. According to another study, 67 percent organizations blame employee disengagement as the top barrier against adopting technology-based training.
A recent research claims that the charm of 3-7 minutes of training through microlearning boosts employee engagement by 50 percent, yielding an average of 4-5 items that an individual is sure to learn from a session.
Hence, microlearning is a fruitful employee-engagement tool that not only enhances productivity but also improves learning through easily digestible bite-sized information pieces. It is also beneficial for corporations looking to incorporate microlearning into employee training since it boosts retention.
- Catering to lack of attention:Microlearning is an ideal instructional model to combat decreasing attention spans among employees. The noted deterioration of attention span among adults surfing the web from 12 seconds in 2000 to merely 8 seconds in 2013 was an issue of concern for employers (National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, The Associated Press 2014). With over 40 percent users abandoning the web within 3 seconds in case it loads too slowly (Akamai, 2009), microlearning is nothing less than a boon.
Concise content modules delivered within minutes address the issue of low attention spans. Microlearning is, thus, a handy tool to train employees during office hours without expending valuable time.
- Overcoming time constraints:One of the most intriguing aspects of microlearning is its adaptability to the time-bound social and professional engagement. Average hours of formal training that an employee receives is 31.5 per year (ATD’s State of the Industry Report, 2014). In an approximate 40-hour work week, an employee devotes as less as 1 percent of his/her time each week to professional learning, i.e., 4.8 minutes a day (Meet the Modern Learner: Engaging the Overwhelmed, Distracted, and Impatient Employee, The Bersin and Associates Bulletin).
To support employee performance, microlearning has emerged as a magic wand. It essentially caters to such time constraints and delivers formal training in the limited work hours. These short bouts of formal learning can prove to be quite fruitful in the longer run.
- On-demand, anywhere training: Another aspect that makes microlearning an indispensable instructional tool for employee training is its flexible, easily accessible on-demand format. Employees prefer on-the-job training over instructor-led training (Brandon Hall Group and BizLibrary Survey) placing on-the-go learning as more convenient and accessible. Similar trust is placed in on-demand employee training. By having the right employee training and development system, it is easy to execute on-the-job and on-demand employee training.
With an on-demand format of learning delivery, microlearning achieves employee satisfaction and successfully reduces the knowledge-skill gap.
With features and elements enhancing employee training delivery, microlearning is set to remain one of the uncontested training formats in 2018. Organizations seeking employee engagement and better participation in training workshops shall switch to microlearning whenever there is a need to drive successful knowledge acquisition and retention by employees.