Everything you need to know about micro-learning
Scott Beagrie, July 28, 2017
Bite-sized learning can be used to top up and retain more traditional learning and development
What is micro-learning?
A method of delivering learning in bite-sized pieces. Micro-learning can take several different forms but is typically delivered in short bursts (as little as two to three minutes) online and often on a mobile or tablet. It could be an animation or video. There is plenty of generic micro-learning material available but it can also be tailored to meet a particular organisational or individual need.
When should it be used?
Micro-learning is ideal for performance support and to top up or refresh learning or skills at the point of need. Gerry Griffin, founder of micro-learning provider Skill Pill, reckons it’s best used as a bridge between formal training and the moment of application. “For example, if someone attended a session on coaching it may be several months before they deploy that knowledge,” he says. “Our data shows that after six weeks 85% of the content consumed from the learning intervention will have been lost.” Skill Pill has had a great deal of success in supporting organisations that have distributed populations where employees can be reluctant to commit long periods to face-to-face training.
When shouldn’t it be used?
It shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for formal, structured learning or more in-depth online courses, but rather a way to complement a mix of L&D methods. Griffin points out that micro-learning is a “pull” technology that allows people to engage when and where they want rather than “pushing” them into certain learning structures. As with any learning and development intervention, consider what you want to achieve from it and whether micro-learning is the best vehicle.
Who is using it?
Background screening technology company Asurint’s multi-generational workforce has a high proportion of Millennials with little management experience. It operates in a highly regulated area and required a learning strategy that would support ongoing individual professional development. Recognising the importance of autonomy to Millennials, learning and development manager Hue DeLuca explains that the Grovo platform, micro-learning content and ability to track results matched the needs of the company and the workforce.
Amnesty International is currently piloting a micro-learning package designed by Skill Pill for the launch of its global campaign on Human Rights Defenders. Barbara Weber, director of human rights education at Amnesty International, explains that the programme uses different learning approaches to build a universal culture of human rights. “Bite-sized learning or micro-learning offers the opportunity to discuss human rights issues in a quick, relevant and creative manner,” she says. “The package gives learners a brief overview on how to talk to people in everyday life on human rights and human rights defenders. It takes less than 20 minutes and can be taken anywhere with all kinds of devices.”
How effective has it been as a learning technique?
It is still early days for Amnesty International’s programme but it will be measuring the effectiveness by monitoring use of the package in its human rights education work around the world and how many people it “can inspire to sign up”, says Weber. Dell has already experienced success using Skill Pill for a digital campaign to encourage 14,000 sales representatives around the globe to implement elements of its ‘Net Promoter Score’ methodology. “Using mobile and PC, we were able to achieve an 11% to 19% uptake in desire among the sales reps globally,” says Griffin.
Meanwhile at Asurint, DeLuca reckons that since implementing Grovo, learning is far more employee-driven, with a quarter of lesson views self-directed. Sales team new hire training has reduced from six to eight weeks to four, while in 2016 it retained 90% of employees onboarded with Grovo as well as promoted 82% of participants in its ‘Achieving Leaders’ employee development outcome. “I wanted to make training more like watching a YouTube video since that’s the way people are learning now,” DeLuca explains.
How best to ensure it’s embedded in an organisation?
Griffin advises HR and L&D practitioners to encourage users to self-diagnose their skills gaps and participate in creating learning. He adds: “In our experience two to three minutes works best, as does animation/mixed media and a conversational style and personalised content.” Weber recommends conducting short pilots of learning approaches with different target groups. “Always keep your target group in mind while you develop your learning package,” she says.