Your Most Pressing Questions About Microlearning Answered

Brett C. Wilson

Principal of Thought Leadership and Advisory Services, Cornerstone

A few months ago, we held a lively discussion with content experts from TED, Grovo, PowerForward and CyberU about how companies can adapt their learning content strategies to meet business and talent needs. There were so many excellent questions that came up that we decided to answer them here.

Find answers to your most pressing questions about microlearning here.

What is the best way to track and measure the effects of microlearning on the learner?

Microlearning is about reinforcing existing skills, not providing them with new skills. The ability to retrieve information after its learned, specifically through microlearning, creates permanence in long-term memory. Thus, assessments, as minor as they may be, are essential when implementing microlearning strategies.

I would suggest asking employees no more than three or four multiple-choice or open-ended questions after each lesson. Based on the results, you can start tracking whether or not the content reinforced the skill.

What's your view on crowdsourcing microlearning from within the organization? For example, instead of having an outside instructional designer build content, teaching internal subject matter experts best practices for creating a learning curriculum.

As a matter fact, I would suggest that subject matter experts be primary sources of content creation. As microlearning continues to mature, design models will appear and make it simpler for internal subject matter experts to generate their content. Since microlearning is about reinforcing skills, a subject matter expert would be ideal for content development.

How can companies in traditional industries such as oil and gas become leaders when it comes to using newer learning technologies and methodologies?

Methodologies such as blended learning, microlearning and even flipped classrooms are all irrelevant to the content they serve. Because people learn differently, these methodologies serve different purposes. Some prime the brain for learning (input of information), while others play a role in retrieval (output of information).

For example, microlearning focuses on reinforcing skills, while blended learning has more to do with making content available across new devices and channels. I would suggest that a misalignment between the purpose of learning and the methodology used is more detrimental than not using one of these new tactics.

My ultimate recommendation would be to institute a formal change management process when trying to install new methodologies of learning.

How does traditional instructor-led training (ILT) fit in with microlearning?

Traditional ILT methodologies should be used to introduce new skills, with microlearning complementing ILT methods to reinforce those skills. People rely on microlearning because they find themselves short of time and believe that a quick video replaces traditional online learning or even ITL, but this is not the case. ILT and microlearning are complementary methodologies for an overall learning strategy.

Does anyone do instructor-led training anymore? How does microlearning work in this sphere?

Instructor-led training is alive and well, but organizations may abandon instructor-led training for a period of time because of cost. Multi-locational organizations have transportation costs associated with instructor-led training. Plus, the perceived loss of opportunity costs, which implies that we could be doing something more productive instead of training, is a factor as well. To me, that suggests that learning and development is not a priority within an organization.

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that learning and development increases the bottom-line margin as well as top-line growth. Research also suggests that the leading cause for people to leave their organizations is a lack of development. For companies that understand how these metrics work, instructor-led training is very much a staple of their learning strategy.

To learn more about how to bolster your companies L&D strategies and adapt your learning content to meet modern workforce needs, check out our webinar on "The Future of Learning Content."

Photo: Creative Commons

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