Have you ever looked at the ‘time remaining’ on a video tutorial, contemplated the need to learn in that moment and shut the laptop never to return? Most of us have.

The challenge in online learning is the number of resources, length of resources and the lack of structure. Before the internet age, we learnt within a structured curriculum, with books and teachers leading the experience.

Today, we have the opportunity to learn on demand, on any device with internet access. While this opens the gates to information and continuous skilling, we need to structure the learning. 

The rapid change in information reduces our opportunity to learn at leisure. We have to learn and apply simultaneously. How can we structure learning experiences so they are digestible and applicable? 

In this blog, we will learn about microlearning, it’s benefits and actionable takeaways to design a microlearning experience. 

What is microlearning?

Microlearning is a way of chunking content into digestible bites that helps learners retain the knowledge. The internet gives us the opportunity to learn anywhere, anytime and applying principles of microlearning helps personalize the experience based on speed and intended outcomes

For example, if you want to upskill for a promotion at work, the speed of learning and application should be quick and relevant. If the intended outcome is leisure, like building a garden, the speed of learning and application can be relatively slower

Why is microlearning important? 

Modern learners, like us, are exposed to a dearth of resources in short spans of time on multiple devices. We have bookmarks (I have 200 on chrome as I type this), links pasted on our notes, articles emailed to our personal addresses and so many more directions that the information is flowing from. While modern learning happens through inquiry or to solve a problem, it is not structured and leads to negative association to the content and learning experience

How is microlearning solving our learning challenges?

  1. Distractions: A microlearning session is intended to be anywhere between 5-10 mins. This quick just-in-time learning session reduces opportunity for distractions
  2. Knowledge retention: Microlearning helps retain information and apply it. The cognitive load is reduced significantly when learning happens with short and attainable bursts of material. 
  3. Boredom: The modern learner is easily bored. Our phones, laptops and other devices in the environment are attention pulling. Microlearning gives us the opportunity to take a short dose of learning with the intention of application. Short doses increase the learner’s motivation. For example, a quick run for 10 minutes releases happy hormones that give us the urge to run the next day. 

There are three actionable must-haves to design microlearning experiences: 

1. Learning outcome

Microlearning is successful when learners know why the content is important and what they want to achieve. For example, when you try an intermediate yoga pose, your intention is to test agility. If you were unaware of the intention, you might possibly practice the beginner poses without wanting to step up. 

Three questions to explore our learning intention:
  • Why am I learning this now?
  • How will this help me move forward?
  • How will I feel when I learn this? 

2. Structure

I am an advocate for structure in learning. To design any microlearning experience, build a structure and give opportunity for curiosity within the structure. For example, if you are learning chess through videos and practice sessions, create a calendar for 30 days, chart videos and practice sessions per week.  Through the week, give yourself the opportunity to learn from a peer or rewatch your video for analysis. 

Two important tips for structure:
  • Do not worry about tools, just take a simple calendar, mark content per week and cross it out when you are done.
  • Structure is your friend, not your foe. Give yourself time to wander within the structure. 

3. On-demand content

A key piece of microlearning is the availability of content throughout the learning experience. Ondemand content reduces friction and helps the learner build momentum. As you create your calendar, build a library of content and mark them by weeks. 

One tip for on-demand content:
  • Personalize your experience to your needs. You should feel more ‘aha’ moments when you learn and less ‘umm’ moments. 

Unlearning Thought

What can you do to minimize friction in learning and maximize impact?