Learning Technologies Summer Forum: Microlearning, Our Thoughts

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We had a great time at the Learning Technologies Summer Forum (LTSF), Kensington Olympia yesterday. The day was jam packed with a busy conference schedule, over 30 seminars and an exhibition. We showcased our new app minds-i, custom eLearning and Quizcom, we also ran our ever popular unicorn competition, where one lucky winner got to take home a giant unicorn! Here's the lucky winner with her prize:

There was so much to choose from during the day we were spoilt for choice and it was great to have some fantastic conversations about all things learning. Here are the key themes we identified which had everyone talking:

  • Microlearning
  • Brain science and learning theory
  • Personalisation and customisation
  • The future of the LMS and future trends
  • Measuring success for learners

We thought we'd delve a little deeper into one of the most popular topics microlearning and give our thoughts.

What is microlearning?

Microlearning is a way of teaching and delivering content in small, bite size chunks. The term microlearning has been discussed for a long time in learning and development circles. However, in 2017 we should be thinking about microlearning v2, where self-directed learning can be accessed anywhere, anytime and on any device. This type of training is also the perfect place to include social learning, serious games and reward.

How long is microlearning?

Anything less than 3 minutes is typically considered microlearning.

Why is microlearning trending (again)?

Microlearning isn't a new idea, we've always been receptive to learning new information in small chunks. This type of learning is easily digestible and much more palatable than spending hours or even days in a formal environment learning the same topic. It also may be more appropriate for certain topics to be accessible this way, for example point of need videos where someone needs to understand something very specific and right away.

If we look at our modern day lives, microlearning can be seen all around us and technology has helped to enable this type of information delivery even further. If you want to know how to do just about anything, a how-to video will be easily accessible online, from fixing a leaky radiator, to making your own DIY cloud light there's a host of information available. This video on how to separate an egg yolk has had over 18.5 million views. This way of accessing information is ingrained into everyday lives, it's available anywhere, at anytime, often just in time and through any device. It doesn't matter if you're cooking in the kitchen or out walking the dog, as long as you have either a mobile or tablet with you you've got a wealth of information at the touch of your fingertips.

When we then reflect back on how learning has been taught both in work and at school, this has traditionally been delivered through classroom based learning or long eLearning modules (sometimes up to 60 minutes in duration-eek). Therefore when we think about how people are accessing information and learning in their personal lives, why would we want to offer the polar opposite to how people now want to learn in their personal lives? Why would we want to keep pushing training to them in a format they aren't use to? All of a sudden training feels like a chore. Wouldn't it be a much better learning environment if learners actually wanted to learn?

What does microlearning look like in the workplace?

Small, bite size chunks of information, delivered through multiple platforms but crucially accessible on mobiles. Microlearning doesn't have to be just videos, it can also be infographics, peer-to-peer, documents, quizzes, games, web articles, interactive lessons to name a few. It can also be delivered through multiple platforms such as mobile, tablets, LMS, intranet sites and many more. A popular way to offer microlearning is through the use of apps, this can either be done through a quiz where the learner answers a series of questions and is awarded points (think Who Wants To Be A Millionaire but without the big cash prize!), or through a learner self directed app where learners can opt to explore and choose the content they want to view (the pull model).

Is it just for millennials?

The simple answer to this question is, no! There has been a lot of talk about microlearning being created because millennials have such short attention spans that they can't concentrate on anything longer than a 2 minute video, this just simply isn't true. Microlearning is for everyone, let's think back to our DIY example where there are plenty of Gen X, Baby Boomers and older who actively watch and make these DIY videos.

What we have seen over recent years is the rise in the use of videos and social media platforms, now fully integrated into people's lives. At our recent client forum we talked about 'mobile moments' and how mobile learning needs to fit into people’s lives in a way they are already familiar with. When we think about social media platforms the majority of content shared is limited in terms of word count or length, especially when you look at Snapchat or Twitter where these sites specialise in bite size social media sharing. We can take these lifestyle observations back to the workplace and apply this theory to our learning offerings, but please remember the demographic for microlearning = any age.

What are your thoughts about microlearning? Are you using it effectively within your organisation? As we mentioned above, one of the other key themes from the Learning Technologies Summer Forum was around the measures of success for learners. We will be running a blog series shortly, 'Lessons from Marketers' where we will explore key similarities between marketing and training, including ROI.

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