Micro-learning is a catch phrase or buzzword that seams to be showing up everywhere lately. It appears in articles, LinkedIn posts, company profiles and more. I started to worry that with all the attention to this new thing I was missing something on this skill/process. Then, in reading about a new “micro-learning” feature in a LMS product, I came across this quote:
“The concept of ‘micro-learning’ is popular these days. At a high level, it just means that learning materials are designed to be consumed in small 5-10 minute chunks rather than the traditional multi-hour courses.”
The statement calmed me immediately. I realized that for most people in the training and development profession, this is nothing really new but is more or less a re-branding of some concepts that have been in use for years. Yes, new technology makes it easier to disseminate, track and utilize the concepts but it really is just expanding on good practices we should already be doing.
Chunking or Clustering
In the past, classes were chunked in to smaller sessions and sessions chunked into smaller activities as much as possible. New technology provides more tools in the clustering of training material. This flexibility makes training material that is accessible, mobile, easy to revisit and available at the work site in chunks that can be consumed as part of the daily work flow.
Many of the micro-learning system and tools simply provide effective ways of providing job aids. How-to videos, tutorials, sample forms, pop-ups on websites and more are forms of micro-learning. These used to be developed laborously and often could not be updated as frequently as needed. Now they can be customized, personalized and rapidly released.
Following up with learners after a course is vital to refresh the information, help students relate their knowledge to the workplace, apply what they learned to their daily work and receive feedback if possible. These actions were called re-enforcement activities and were often difficult. (I remember putting reminders on my calendar to send emails with poll questions or summaries after classes.) Technology now helps us automate these activities with even more in-depth and effective activities.
Although I still dislike the buzzword, I am no longer worried about micro-learning being something that I don’t know how to do. Learning development professionals have been using small burst learning for a long time. The methods for delivery continue to be refined and the technology allows for greater creativity and ease in administration. Don’t get caught up in the label, get caught in the wave of innovation and something doesn’t need the buzzword micro-learning to be effective in your organization.