More and more companies are turning to microlearning, the methodology of delivering information in smaller, repeated sessions, to reach their learners. There’s good reason for this: science tells us that when learning sessions are too long, our brains become overloaded and the process of moving new information into our long-term memories is diminished. This is called cognitive load, or essentially, the longer the training session the less we can retain and use later.
In other words, if your training schedule includes a restroom break, it’s a prime candidate for a microlearning transformation.
Whether it’s in the classroom or online, long-form training can have poor engagement and retention rates and disrupts your learners’ natural workflow. Transforming this training into micro-sized, consumable bites – or supplementing necessary long-form learning with a microlearning component – can improve learning outcomes dramatically.
But fear not! The blood, sweat, tears (and precious budget) you invested into long-form training were not in vain: this is your source material. However, it’s not as simple as merely chopping this content into smaller bites. There are important keys to transforming your training into an engaging microlearning experience. Here are some of the tips and best practices we’ve curated over the years to make it truly effective:
Start with the old
Identify the intended outcome of the microlearning. What skills, activities, and knowledge is the learner meant to achieve through the completion of the training? Has this evolved since the original content was developed? With this fresh lens, review your existing material to weed out or redevelop what is no longer relevant. Also prime for the chopping block? Any content not in line with your current operational strategies or cultural ways of thinking.
Fill in the gaps
If the first step left you with some missing content, it’s time to build material to fill in the informational gaps. This can be rough and long-form – you’re not micro-sizing yet – but do ensure all content is helpful to the learner and relevant to the topic.
This is an opportunity to freshen up your messaging and graphics to align with your latest learning initiatives. We often help clients with newly launched diversity and inclusion programs whose other training materials are not reflective of this important initiative. Each new piece of content is an opportunity to reinforce other learning.
Establish your delivery methods
Determine the most appropriate media for the content and audience. Are you looking to reach on-the-go learners who find videos more accessible? Is your learner population multi-generational and responds more favorably to a brief written article? Using a combination of media formats can be helpful when a one-size-fits-all method won’t work. This approach is helpful to reach a diverse learning demographic, or when multiple micro-lessons will be needed to complete the training.
It’s time to micro-size
This step is more than just parsing up lengthy training into shorter segments. The goal is to create concise modules designed to be consumed in 10-15 minutes with a beginning, middle, and end. Consider how many micro-lessons you need to fully deliver the material and allow for reinforcement and practice. At Blue Ocean Brain, we believe in the drip-method of learning: engaging learners on a topic in multiple sessions over time. The first micro-lesson introduces the concept, the second provides an example, the third offers actionable ideas for practice, the fourth reinforces, and so on.
Keep in mind, if you’re starting with presentation decks, you’ll need to add in some narrative to allow for self-directed learning. (Remember, the learners won’t have an instructor at the front of the room reading from their bullets. Context is important.)
Inject interest and energy
You want your content to be “sticky”. It should be thought-provoking, relevant to your learners’ success in their role, and include real-world analogies that make sense in their work or personal lives. Add side bars with discussion-worthy facts.
Even compliance training or heavy legal topics can be sticky. This takes some finesse and is often best accomplished by skilled instructional designers. Use colorful games and brain exercises to reinforce learning and provide opportunities for practice. "Pull" tactics such as these will engage your learners and bring them back for more.
Bottom line: if your people are talking about the learning in meetings or at the proverbial water cooler, you have achieved peak stickiness.
Bells and whistles
To draw learners in and keep them engaged, build in eye-catching images and graphics. Infographics that can be downloaded and referred back to are great reinforcement tools. Include relevant quotes and thought-provoking questions that help them think about and apply the learning in the scope of their own job and life.
If your training includes a lot of technical terms, provide a short glossary of terms. Put it in easy reach and leave it there so the learner can fully benefit from the training. When learners feel they understand the information and jargon they’re taking in, they’re more likely to engage with and retain the entire learning.
Make the learning accessible. Deliver it to your learners in an environment that is easy to jump in to and out of – remember, your learners only have 10-15 minutes here – and encourage usage through push notifications via email or other internal messaging channels.
There is a lot to consider when transforming content for the microlearning experience; this article only scratches the surface. Partnering with an experienced microlearning provider can mean the difference between simply chopped up training and a truly engaging, impactful program. Blue Ocean Brain works with learning teams of all sizes to micro-size existing content, develop new content, and provide the accessible, dynamic digital learning environment your people will want to visit each day.