If the average TikTok user determines content relevance in less than 10 seconds and expects to learn something useful in about 1-3 minutes, what’s that doing to our learners’ tolerance for most of today’s in-person and online training?
Long courses with a slow build to relevance are dinosaurs! Imagine if it takes you X number of weeks to get somebody to the requisite level of proficiency. You probably can't change that fact very easily, but you can definitely chop it into shorter chunks. Have you noticed that compelling, prerecorded courses on platforms like LinkedIn Learning are now typically chunked into 2.5-to-5-minute topic driven segments? These are smaller chunks of learning sequenced into meaningful units that address a real learner need or problem that captivates attention and maintains engagement through relevance.
You also need a quick, relevant start. Too often in virtual trainings and eLearning we see the slow PowerPoint-reveal of a topic driven agenda, one painful bullet at a time. Unfortunately learning about topics seldom solves a real-life problem. That kind of nonsense compounds with distance in remote delivery for a truly catatonic learning experience. An effective quick-start immediately calls out relevance and is built with Zoomers in mind.
Microlearning as Just-in-Time Learning
With microlearning you’re leveraging a just-in-time apprenticeship model where you learn at the experts’ feet, right as you need the next step. Today’s stressed-out professional wants regular guidance applying manageable chunks of learning that fit into their busy schedule – that’s a big ask! They want actionable tasks that fit into their role and the ability to delay them if it’s not the right time or fit.
Full and half day workshops are tough to work into their schedule. Learners are frequently asking for more on-demand content, reinforced with microlearning as they’re applying it. They want relevant application reminders pushed to them at key points in the journey, to support retention and help document their performance improvement.
Microlearning as Sustainers of Change
The smaller the content chunks are, the easier it is to integrate into everyday work. Companies want more measurable learning value. This is not a fad! The hashtag #LearnOnTikTok has over 7 billion views and counting. Whether it’s a training on “Collaboration” or a training on “Agile Management”, you can use the smaller pieces, whether they're mini (15-30 min) courses or microlearning (3-5 minutes) to support better function, better productivity, and better results.
Can you think more granular? A 20-minute course would probably fall in the category of a mini-course, rather than a microlearning. Microlearnings are always less than 10 minutes and often fluctuate around five. However, there's not a lot you can teach on a single objective that's less than five minutes. You need an introductory scenario or context, followed by some sort of activity and end with a summary that ties it to an action or situation on the job, so it’s immediately relevant and applicable.
Too often I see less effective microlearnings being reduced to a multiple-choice question, that's flipped out via text or some other mobile application and asks, “do you remember this fact, or this point from a course”. That's not really microlearning as they haven’t “learned” anything. You've just triggered some low-level recall. If you're going to help them really learn something, there has to be some application tied to it. And a multiple-choice question doesn't usually hit the spot.
For example, in a mircolearning if you take an objective and you say, “this is the point to do this, and these things likely happen.” Then, ask the learner to think about their situation and how it would that apply in their role? With this type of call to action you're triggering a relevant activity. You've demonstrated it. You tied it to the work that they do and sustained their application of the key point for longer -- its powerful!
Microlearning as as Behavior Modifiers
Imagine there is a gap in “Gender Sensitivity” or perhaps “Negotiation Skills”, as an example. Because we’re frequently engaged in activities that require those skills, we’re likely to come across a situation we could apply a relevant principle from that sort of microlearning. It’s a relevant content chunk tied to a legitimate skill gap. It allows them to look around their workday and ask, “where could I apply that concept or skill today?”
Microlearnings that revisit key behaviors over time, can do more than just “sow the seed of the application”, they can help the learner internalize key learning and lift their productivity and ultimately shape company culture. Why does it work that way? Because they are looking for a place to actually connect it, right now, in the workplace.
In my experience, I see instances of folks going to courses and then they get so distracted by their regular work that they don't actually apply anything. Their everyday work overwhelms them, and they could benefit from periodic microlearning reminders to refresh their commitment to upgrade their behavior.
Microlearning as a Panacea
Not likely! We’ve probably all encountered microlearnings that lack any connection to what we do. Like the TikTok learner, less relevant microlearnings still irritate us, and we try to click or swipe through them as quickly as possible to get back to our “real work”.
There is no human connection or shared making of meaning. Without sufficient context they can feel like a random buckshot of short little bits of compliance or safety facts. Some of them stick. Most don't. Without a robust learning strategy, they lack cohesion or sequence. It’s simply not good instructional microlearning design! They aren’t a panacea, but they are a useful tool we should be considering to improve learning impact.
Next time I post, I’ll be looking deeper into impacts on existing training and what that means for ID upskilling.
In the meantime, I challenge you to find your least effective training and see where it could be improved with a little chopping and chunking into microlearning. Can you channel a typical TikTok learner as you evaluate immediate relevance? Imagine that LinkedIn Learning user allowed to skip right to what they need. There is so much we ID’s can learn from TikTok and LinkedIn Learning! I look forward to seeing your examples in the comments below.