(Fair warning, this post might make you hungry. If it’s getting close to mealtime, you may want to grab a snack to nibble while you read.)
A full-length e-learning course is like a big, ol’ birthday cake. It takes a long time to prepare. It’s rich, fancy, and a little intimidating. It’s not the kind of dessert you’d eat by yourself in one sitting without serious repercussions. You need to give it a little time to digest.
Micro-learning, on the other hand, is like a batch of mini-muffins: easy to down in a few nibbles. You hardly even notice how many muffins you've popped into your mouth until you’ve downed a baker’s dozen.
Similarly, micro-learning breaks information or skill-building content into small, quick-to-consume bits. Micro-learning focuses on helping learners achieve one discrete objective—usually in five minutes or less—making it a little different than mini-courses, which break large courses into smaller (10- to 15-minute) modules.
In this post by Tom Kuhlmann about structuring long e-learning courses, he introduces the concept of micro-learning as “coursels”—mini-muffin–size bites of information:
The trend in online learning is small, digestible chunks. Some people call it YouTube learning. I like to call them coursels (as in course morsels). The trend makes sense. We’re using more and more mobile devices where quick-hit training works better, and chunked content is easier to process.
Tom is talking about breaking meaty e-learning into smaller chunks—cutting the birthday cake into manageable slices, so to speak. This explanation also provides a good framework for thinking about micro-learning.
There are tons of reasons that micro-learning is a great approach. Let’s take a look at a few.
When you give learners short, focused, easily consumable bites of content instead of a thousand-slide mega-course, the lessons feel achievable. By requiring less of a learner’s time and energy, you may find that they paradoxically consume more content than if you hit them with a wall of words. Micro-learning is easier to take on, and easier to get through, than traditional courses.
By splitting up learning into smaller, more targeted chunks, you make it easier for learners to find exactly what they are looking for in the moment of need. Learners can log on, get the information they need quickly, and get back to doing what they’re doing. So instead of making learners cull through the entire process for baking cupcakes, you can give them the ability to choose only the step of the recipe they need.
Because micro-learning is small, you can deliver it in a variety of different formats. There will be bits of information that are best delivered in a short training video, where others may require a scenario, or even just working through a quick interactive checklist. Because you’re focused on just one learning objective, you have more freedom to experiment with different formats without having to build an entire course.
How to Approach Building Micro-Learning
If you’re interested in giving micro-learning a try, you already have an ample amount of information to get started. But here are some questions to ask yourself before sitting down to build out a micro-learning strategy:
- How will you get everyone on your team on board with shorter content?
- How will you introduce micro-learning to your organization and to learners?
- What information could be helpful to give learners on the job?
- What’s your strategy for measuring the effectiveness of your micro-learning to make sure it’s still delivering full-size impact?
- Can your learners access things like audio and video on the job?
By beginning to answer some of these questions, you’ll be well on your way to designing a micro-learning program to help get your learners up and running stat.
Are you already on board with micro-learning? Share your experience in the comments.
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