One of the latest buzzwords in the learning industry is Microlearning. Just the name seems to lessen the importance of learning, by making it ‘micro’. It is, however, gaining some traction among corporate training administrators. So what is microlearning and is it for you?
What Is Micro Learning?
Micro-learning in a nutshell is simply learning broken down into relatively tiny chunks of information. Personally, I think the rise in popularity of this technique is evidence of the noticeable decrease in the average attention span over the past few decades. That aside, the technique is great for people who have a busy schedule, but have intermittent downtime during the day of 5 to 10 minutes at a time. So during that 5 minutes, you can log into a website with structured micro-learning, and learn a concept that is a small part of a larger topic to be learned. Each micro-learning session builds upon earlier sessions, with brief refreshers to help the learner retain the past session’s concept, and more easily grasp the new concept.
How Is Micro Learning Best Used?
Some ideal candidates for microlearning would be a new hire at a company, someone who is preparing for new position within the company, or just someone who loves to continue to learn, even with a busy schedule. Microlearning is not conducive to learning complex topics that normally would require extended periods of serious contemplation and uninterrupted research – differential equations or advanced psychology, for example. But it’s tailor-made for learning executable skills like Microsoft Excel pivot tables, or Project Management basics. A learner can get guided hands-on experience learning pivot tables, five or ten minutes at a time. After an hour or two of scattered training throughout the week, the learner should have a solid grasp of the concept of pivot tables, and begin to be able to use them effectively in his/her job. Microlearning is also effective for learning a second language. Rosetta Stone uses focused micro-learning chunks along with other techniques to help their customers quickly learn a language. To gain the most from micro-learning, there should be occasional quizzes or learning checks to ensure that the learner is actually benefiting from the sessions.
When Does Micro Learning Fall Short?
College students would be the least likely candidate to benefit from micro learning. Because the concepts of most college classes are typically complex and often foreign to the learner, micro learning would fall woefully short. College students operate in learning mode most of the day, so the concept of microlearning is actually counterproductive. These students would most likely benefit most from ‘micro-breaks’ from their lengthy learning sessions (see our article on the Pomodoro Technique for effective learning).
Corporate Trainers would be wise to implement some sort of micro-learning into their curriculum. Examples of concepts that could easily be developed would be a short course on the company vision, mission and corporate strategy. We mentioned Microsoft Excel as a possible topic. Who in the organization wouldn’t benefit from greater understanding of the vast variety of features of Excel. How about a course for employees who aspire to be managers within the company? A management skills micro-course would be ideal for them, as would the previously mentioned company vision short course. The applications are virtually endless, and limited only by the administrators’ imagination.