Have you ever been given a ton of files—PPTs, PDFs, Word docs, etc.—and told you need to turn them into e-learning? You’re not alone! Oftentimes, course creators are expected to take a slew of resources and create a lengthy course out of them. So that’s what they do. But sometimes it’s more effective to break that content up into bite-size courses—also known as microlearning. For example, if the content is skill-driven, it might be more beneficial to create a series of short “how-to” courses so learners can quickly access the information they need and apply it immediately.  

If you’re used to creating one long course that covers a topic from A to Z but think the microlearning approach might work well for some of your projects, check out these tips to learn how to design effective microlearning courses your learners will love.

1. Focus on One Learning Objective

Most lengthy e-learning courses start with a bulleted list that details the learning objectives the course aims to help learners achieve. With microlearning, you’ll want to whittle that down to just one objective, to help the learner focus on mastering that specific item. Having a single learning objective can prevent the content from bloating beyond something that’s micro. And it ensures the course isn’t so short that it doesn’t actually have anything meaningful to share with learners.

Many instructional designers struggle with this. Only one learning objective? Yes. One. What makes the short form of microlearning work is that it’s laser-focused on teaching a small amount of information effectively. In some cases, a single microlearning course might be all you need to get the job done. In situations where you have more content, you can create a series of short microlearning courses that learners can take one after the other as part of a learning path or a curriculum. So if you’ve got multiple objectives, that’s fine! Just make a separate microlearning course for each.

2. Only Include Essential Content 

Once you’ve identified the learning objective, use it as a guide for determining what to include in your course. Ask yourself: Do learners absolutely need to know this to achieve the learning objective? If the answer is no, cut it out. 

This can be easier said than done—especially if you’re working with a Subject Matter Expert (SME) who’s convinced everything is essential. If you want to keep your SME happy, try suggesting “learn more” buttons that give learners access to additional information and links to external resources. That way you empower learners who want to dig deeper without overwhelming those who just need the basics. 

If you’re still struggling to convince your SME that this is the way to go, remind them that just because you include something in the course doesn’t mean learners will retain it! Tell them that by sticking to the essentials, you’re increasing the likelihood that learners will retain key messages.

For more tips on curating your content, check out this article: The Dos and Don’ts of Separating Need-to-Know from Nice-to-Know.

3. Choose a Suitable Format

In addition to focusing on one learning objective and sifting through which content to include, you’ll want to think about a helpful way to present that content. 

Would including a tabbed interaction with just text do the trick? Or maybe a short video would be more effective. Another option would be to include a scenario where they practice what they learned in a real-life situation. Or would a combination of some of these elements work best? 

As the course designer, it’s up to you to decide which approach will be most helpful as learners try to achieve the objective you’ve defined. And although there’s more than one way to present content, knowing your audience and their needs will help you craft the learning experience that’s most likely to result in the best outcomes. 

The Bottom Line

So the next time you need to pull together a training that you think learners would better consume in bite-size courses, revisit this article to help you craft an effective microlearning experience. If those bite-size courses teach them relevant skills they can apply to their jobs, they might even end up going through a bunch in one sitting—much like when you sit down to watch one episode of your favorite TV show and somehow end up binge-watching an entire season.

By breaking your content down into smaller chunks, you empower learners to take control of their learning experience and decide how much content to consume at a time. And when learners are in the driver’s seat, they’re typically more engaged, leading to better learning outcomes. So everybody wins!

Convinced microlearning is the way to go but not sure where to start? Check out these resources for more information and inspiration:

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