Blog Post

The big picture is better with Microlearning

Julie Winkle Giulioni

Author, Speaker and Consultant Specializing in HR, Leadership and Career Development

Evolving technologies and platforms are dramatically transforming how people learn today. The focus is shifting from comprehensive and choreographed events, workshops and classes toward just-in-time, just-for-me learning bites that address pressing performance needs and align with the cadence of business.

This all sounds great, doesn't it? Let's give a round of applause to learning professionals everywhere.

But (and there's always a but!), microlearning can encourage a focus on individual instructional elements at the expense of the whole - which can result in undermining the learner's ability to internalize, integrate and implement new skills and knowledge.

The solution for learning and development professionals who want to make the most of microlearning is to adopt a macro-mindset. This is a strategic mindset that emanates from and focuses squarely upon the big picture. Here are three ways to begin to cultivate that macro-mindset.

Connect to goals and priorities

Whenever a new approach comes on the scene, it's easy to be dazzled by its bells, whistles and novel capabilities. This is particularly true of microlearning. Too frequently, L&D professionals find themselves being lured down the rabbit hole, chasing cool content and methods and forgetting what they started out to accomplish. Have you ever done this?

We can easily become enamored with the nearly limitless sources to be curated and the elegance of the solutions, forgetting fundamental learner needs. When we do this, we blunt the potential of microlearning. Instead, it's wise to regularly step back and ensure that we can trace a breadcrumb trail from each learning asset to what matters most to the business. Even the coolest video or shortest checklist that doesn't directly support organizational or employee goals and priorities must be ruthlessly eliminated to make room for learning that's relevant and produces results.

Focus on results

Let's face it. The perennial challenge facing learning and development professionals - evaluation - can be exacerbated in the microlearning environment. Given the limited scope of individual assets and low per item or per user prices, it's tempting to dismiss attempts to measure impact as unwieldy or unnecessary. But nothing could be further from the truth. A macro-mindset acknowledges that the effects of learning - whatever its form - must still be examined to ensure an appropriate return and to evolve our craft and our methods. But, what does that look like in the micro-world?

Current systems and platforms offer plenty of pre-digested data about who has looked at or participated in a discrete instructional element. But clicking an asset is not the same as learning. Mere use is not a useful metric. Instead, an elevated, macro-approach looks at such factors as return or repeat users and detailed user recommendations and ratings, plus actual results in the form of behavior change or performance improvement.

Strive for integration

Microlearning can generate macro-results when, rather than allowing it to live exclusively in its own learning ecosystem, we find new and engaging ways to integrate it into the workflow. Challenge yourself to develop a macro-mindset with questions such as:

  • How can we further make this information available seamlessly at the point of need?
  • Within what other systems and processes might we embed these learning elements?
  • How might we offer real-time, context-specific prompts and pointers to targeted learning based upon changing business conditions and upcoming challenges?

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