Two umbrellas in sand representing microlearning
Training & Learning

How to Embrace the Super Effective Microlearning Training Trend

Just like our phones and computers, the human brain has limited storage space. And with constant information overload, we can make optimum use of our neurons by processing small bits of knowledge at a time. That way, we can focus on useful, relevant information and maximize our chances of retaining it. 

This type of bite-sized learning, also called microlearning, boosts knowledge retention and employee engagement. Microlearning is a fast, flexible employee-approved method of training that can be accessed in the flow of work, which makes it possible for learners to instantly apply the information. To adapt to the microlearning trend, you need to revamp your training with short videos or tutorials and collaborative learning methods like employee-created courses, gamification, and discussion forums.

What is Collaborative Learning?

Discover the key to 90%+ engagement rates

Download ebook

What is microlearning?

Microlearning means learning in small chunks of information, such as short videos, quick quizzes, or a few minutes of gamified training. The ideal length for microlearning, or micro-courses, ranges between 1 and 10 minutes. 

These short bursts of learning, delivered when learners need the information, aim to defeat the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve, which explains that learners quickly forget new knowledge within days of learning it. It’s why only 12% of employees actually apply the skills they learn in training programs to their jobs. Because microlearning emphasizes learning in the flow of work, your teams are more likely to remember what they learn. 

The ideal length for microlearning, or micro-courses, ranges between 1 and 10 minutes. 

How is microlearning different from macrolearning?

While microlearning is quick, interactive, and flexible, macrolearning focuses on delivering a range of content on a topic that takes hours or days to complete. 

Macrolearning is the traditional way of learning that involves training a specific number of learners on a set schedule. Typically, these formal learning interventions take place in a classroom that’s instructor-led and usually involves a one-way relay of information on a particular subject area. The topics for learning are usually decided by L&D professionals at the company, not the learners themselves. 

With the shift to eLearning, macrolearning also includes Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are self-paced courses learners access for free on the internet, or Virtual Instructor-led Training (VILT) courses. Broadly speaking, the macrolearning approach still involves consuming a large body of content on a topic that may or may not be related to the task at hand. In contrast, microlearning relates learning to the exact skill or knowledge employees need—in small nuggets of information.

Microlearning creates a learning organization

Microlearning enables employees to learn in the flow of work with a continuous learning cycle. Combined with low training costs and speedy employee development, this helps you become a true learning organization

Employees prefer microlearning 

Employees love microlearning because it is relevant and useful and offers them the flexibility to learn at their convenience. In the Great Reshuffle, 81% of executives are altering workplace policies to give employees more flexibility. Microlearning plays a strategic role in this transformation by letting employees control the flow of information and create custom learning paths.

Plus, microlearning’s “quick fix” methodology motivates employees to seek learning in the flow of work, making them more productive and confident. In other words, microlearning helps employees feel like rockstars at work, making this learning approach an employee favorite. 

Microlearning improves focus and retention

Focusing on just one aspect of a new subject is far easier than attempting to become an expert on the entire topic. It’s why microlearning increases knowledge retention by at least 50%.

For instance, if you’re creating a project calendar and want to move rows and columns in your spreadsheet, a 1-minute micro tutorial on how to do this exact task is much more helpful than sitting through an entire course on Excel skills. You can focus on learning a new skill and immediately apply the knowledge to your spreadsheet. Plus, you’re more likely to remember how to do it the next time. 

According to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, microlearning is 17% more efficient in helping learners retain knowledge compared to traditional classroom training. This is because learning in digestible chunks saves information to our working memory, the short-term storage of our brain that helps us execute tasks. 

The constant notifications from our phones and computers make it difficult to concentrate for too long without getting distracted. Microlearning is the answer to these shortened attention spans because you could likely finish a 3-minute training module before a notification distracts you. 

Microlearning boosts learning engagement 

Microlearning can engage learners instantly because a short text or a quick video does not require a huge time or attention commitment. It’s part of why tweets and TikToks are so popular—their bite-sized content appeals to the modern workforce who want to consume a wide variety of material. 

Plus, microlearning offers built-in learning objectives—learners want an answer to a specific question that solves a current problem. This raises engagement because the learner wants to gain the knowledge or skill. Unsurprisingly, the average completion rate of a 10-minute microlearning course is 83%, compared with the average macrolearning course completion rate of 20–30%

Microlearning costs less and increases ROI 

With microlearning, you’re utilizing institutional knowledge rather than paying instructional designers to create eLearning courses that may become outdated. 

In the collaborative learning approach, subject matter experts within your company become course authors who create mini courses on a topic they are knowledgeable about. Peers leave feedback or become co-authors, helping to keep content fresh and updated. In one case study, 3-minute microlearning courses created with the help of SMEs reduced training development costs by 50%.

Plus, employee-generated courses are likely to be more relevant and useful because your teams are more familiar with business operations than external experts. So, each course an employee creates helps other teammates and fills a skills gap. This creates a high return on investment (ROI) and saves you precious corporate training dollars. 

Learning and development happen faster

Microlearning courses are quick to digest and to create. One case study demonstrated that microlearning could make learning and development speedier by 300%. Because microlearning tends to focus on just one or two aspects of a task or skill, learning is easier and less formal. Plus, when employees learn in the flow of work, they’re able to use that information immediately, making them more efficient and freeing up brain space for more learning. Given that both millennials and Gen Z want continuous career growth (employees even name opportunities to learn and grow as the highest driver of workplace culture), microlearning can play an instrumental part in fulfilling this need. 

Microlearning offers on-the-job support 

The current workforce values on-the-job support that helps them learn quickly and efficiently. Microlearning offers millennials and Gen Z the instant answers they want with grab-and-go training instead of traditional training sessions that go on for hours or days. In answer to this call, 85% of L&D professionals expect to embed learning and skill-building into an employee’s day-to-day experiences. As learning takes center stage in the work lives of today’s professionals, microlearning can make this a reality by offering the right amount of on-the-job support at the right time.

With microlearning, you’re utilizing institutional knowledge rather than paying instructional designers to create eLearning courses that may become outdated. 

Best practices for L&D to embrace microlearning techniques 

For microlearning to be an effective learning strategy, it needs to be baked into company culture and processes. Microlearning should start at onboarding and become a constant part of employee development. 

But microlearning doesn’t have to be limited to short tutorials—lean on gamification, mobile learning, social learning, and collaborative learning to give microlearning the creative sparkle it needs. 

Break larger processes like onboarding into shorter chunks 

Information overload is one of the most common causes of an onboarding failure. New hires are often nervous and need hefty explanations of how things work in their new roles and their new company. Packing their first weeks with a bunch of training sessions can make their new job look daunting. Plus, they may not be able to use all the training instantly because they aren’t deep into tasks. 

Microlearning helps ease their nerves and brains by offering the flexibility and snackable content that creates the most value from training. That way, new hires aren’t wrangling information and expectations from multiple sources all at once but are taking each day and task at a time. Employ a mix of infographics, microlearning videos, and interactive PDFs as creative ways to give new hires a fun and fulfilling onboarding experience

Add short videos or tutorials for use at the point of need 

Short videos and tutorials are ideal for both new hires and tenured employees because learners can access them as the need arises. Automation and rapid digitization create a need for constant learning, whether it’s gaining familiarity with a tool or understanding new developments in your field. Therefore, training isn’t a one-and-done action, but a continuous process. 

Use microlearning to complement this continuity with short videos in a company wiki that’s freely accessible to employees. Revisit videos from time to time to update information and invite employees to leave feedback and reactions. 

Gamify training through leaderboards and rewards

Gamification and microlearning go hand in hand because games are also a fast-moving and informal method of learning. 90% of employees say that game-based training boosts their productivity, and 72% say it keeps them motivated to work harder. So, if you combine the advantages of microlearning with the benefits of gamification to create training, you are bound to get better learning outcomes.

You can create game-based training from scratch or gamify micro-courses with play-based elements like simulations, storytelling, challenges, and quizzes. 

Make microlearning easier to access through mobile learning 

You could create the most engaging microlearning training, but if a learner can’t access it on their mobile, you’re leaving out a huge percentage of learners. After all, half of the time learners spend online is on a mobile device. Mobile microlearning brings the convenience of mobile and the bite-sized content of microlearning together to offer training that is quick, just in time, and available anytime, anywhere. 

Learners could be reflecting on a work challenge while commuting or while waiting at a dentist appointment, and a microlearning course viewed on a device that’s already in their hands is a great time-saver. In one survey, 56% of participants said they completed training while traveling for business or commuting. 

But mobile learning isn’t just training that can be accessed on mobile. Mobile microlearning is also about using the features of a mobile platform that make them so addictive—like real-time feedback and interaction, instant scores on quizzes, offline access, and the convenience and portability to learn in a way that works for each individual. 

Unsurprisingly, mobile users complete their training courses 45% faster. Plus, they retain more knowledge and are more confident in applying the new skills. Maximize the return on your microlearning courses by making them available through a mobile solution

Take a collaborative learning approach to microlearning 

The collaborative learning method is especially well-suited for microlearning because it adds the social and interactive elements that make training fun, fresh, and useful. With the switch to remote work, employees have noted an increased sense of isolation. Micro-courses created through collaboration also help reduce those negative effects and help build stronger teams

A collaborative learning LMS can help you truly unlock the potential of microlearning, whether it’s through discussion forums, peer feedback, or peer-created courses

Instead of a formal training needs analysis, a tool like 360Learning invites employees to point out knowledge gaps and request micro-courses on a particular subject. Teammates can upvote these requests, and you can decide which training to prioritize. SMEs can create impactful micro-courses using the authoring tool. Once the course is uploaded and live, peers can react to it, leave feedback, or engage in a discussion on the material. 

Choose microlearning for the right type of subjects

While microlearning is a super effective method of training, it may not be the answer for every type of learning. 

For instance, complex topics and technical content may be difficult to explain in a few minutes. Other subjects may require synchronous discussion. In such cases, you could split up an expansive topic into smaller modules and try a blended microlearning approach, which includes a live component. 

blended learning ebook cover

Inside: The fundamental change you must make to your blended learning programs

Download ebook