Microlearning is on everyone’s radar as the latest training and development craze. But is it just a load of hype that’s become temporarily embedded into the corporate psyche? Or is it a genuine ‘here to stay’ phenomenon that you need to get up to speed with, and fast?
Well, let’s begin with a touch of realism. We’re in recruitment. We’re people who love to be in the centre of it all. We love to learn and we love to win. But almost all of us have attention spans that are, to put it politely, easily challenged.
And that’s all you really need to know about the value of microlearning. Yes, it is indeed, a genuine ‘here to stay’ phenomenon that you’d better get up-to speed with.
Let’s reflect, for a moment on the qualities of our highest billers. They’re often the ones who have to be forced to take their annual leave. They’re also the ones who reschedule internal meetings and who never like blocking out days to training and development. Usually that’s because they’re the ones who always have that ‘one deal in the air’ that they’re convinced demands their full attention, both right now and for an unspecified time into the future.
However these high performing individuals are so good at what they do because they are especially curious. They have an instinct to go and look where no-one else has bothered to venture. That’s why they uncover more business and why they’ve got so much going on. It’s also why they are actually very happy to learn new tricks; they simply don’t believe they have the time to do it formally.
So, big fanfare, enter stage left, the small but perfectly formed microlearning module. The bite sized, tailored learning package that’s often visual, often available to users without them having to leave their desk and always easy to digest. This is, of course, the 21st century way – a product delivered to your door; quickly, efficiently and just what you ordered.
But let’s get a few things straight.
First off, microlearning should never be about simply hacking down large chunks of material into bite-sized pieces. The emphasis has to be on making each module self-contained, with clear, deliverable outcomes. That way, it’s not only easy to digest but it can be put into action right away. And because it happens much closer to the action (i.e. when it’s needed and where it’s needed), the whole organisation will see its impact far more quickly on the bottom line.
Secondly, microlearning and creative content go hand in hand. Forget white board sessions that inevitably begin with tired old shout-outs of blatantly obvious questions inviting predictably bland answers covering what everyone attending the session already knows. Microlearning is at its best when it’s delivered in a way that befits the material you want to cover. It might be in the form of a quiz, a video, or a real-time virtual discussion. It could happen online, on a phone or between colleagues brought together from different parts of the business. The aim should always be to shake it up, to be mindful of the ‘attention-span trap’ and to focus on deliverable outcomes.
Ah yes, there’s that phrase again, ‘Deliverable Outcomes’. What we mean by this is essentially giving individuals the confidence to do the job better by learning and understanding new techniques. The content can be as short as you like, providing it fulfils this key objective. It might come in the form of a ‘top up’. No one, for example, particularly enjoys wading through the finer points of new legislation. That’s why subject matter like this is a good candidate for Microlearning. It’s important to stay abreast of such changes but by being creative, perhaps by devising a quiz or a series of ‘what could go wrong if…’-type role-play scenarios, you’ll have the best chance of getting the message across.
In this way, micro-learning can deliver great results and it’s particularly impactful in our corner of the business world, where reputation is everything and time is always scarce. However, the old adage, ’small but perfectly formed’ never rang more true. Microlearning comes with even more pressure on getting it ‘right first time’ than traditional learning methods do. As the content is frequently delivered remotely and has such a big emphasis on deliverable outcomes, it has to be artfully put together. So although the learning sessions may be short and sweet, the amount of thought and time you’ll need to invest in crafting a Microlearning module might surprise you.
Luckily there are experts out there to help. Be sure to shop around and try some courses out for size. You’ll know when you’ve found some good stuff. You’ll still be engaged at the end, and you’ll remember what you you’ve just learnt. And that, as they say, is how it should be done.