What it is not: 5 Microlearning Myths

Josh Bersin describes microlearning as ‘amazing innovation’, explaining that “micro-learning platforms now let you manage the proliferation of video, assessment, and other small content objects with tools for curation, tracking, recommendations, and AI-based prescriptive learning”. Microlearning offers many benefits, but it is subject to major misconceptions.

Working with many L&D professionals throughout the years I have come across five common myths surrounding microlearning:

Myth 1: Delivering microlearning is just a matter of chunking up content.

Of course, microlearning comes in bite-size chunks. But these chunks must be engaging, relevant to the learner’s working life, and effective – the design should ensure that the learning objective is met on completion of each learning nugget. The more microlearning is customised for learners, the more effective it will be.

Myth 2: Microlearning is only suitable for less sophisticated, fact-based learning delivery such as health and safety or tick box compliance training.

This is a concern that Isaac Tolpin, a global expert in microlearning and co-founder of ConveYour.com, also addressed during an exclusive masterclass hosted by Speexx. See the full masterclass here or register for the upcoming session!

There is no doubt that giving employees access to nuggets of learning as they need it on-the-job can really help them when it comes to filling in a particular form correctly or reminding them how to do a rarely performed task, for example. In addition, though, microlearning is a good way to develop a deeper knowledge of high-level soft skills and reinforce learning already carried out. There is a misapprehension that microlearning is not appropriate for complex language and communications learning but, on the contrary, it is an excellent way of getting learners to practice, build and reinforce language skills.

Microlearning delivers learning nuggets in easily digestible, bite-sized chunks. Learners can access microlearning as they need it, on the job. In addition, micro-learning is very well suited to delivery on to mobile devices, allowing learners to access learning anytime anywhere.

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Myth 3: Microlearning replaces traditional e-learning.

In fact, microlearning works best as a way of enhancing and reinforcing traditional e-learning or even classroom-based learning. It is most effective as part of a blended learning delivery that incorporates coaching and mentoring and learning on the job alongside traditional learning delivery. Drip-fed microlearning that is pushed to the learner on their mobile device and requires no complicated login, can be a really effective way of embedding learning into long-term memory.

Myth 4: Microlearning can’t really be assessed properly.

It is tempting for learning professionals just to see microlearning as a little bit of icing on the cake of corporate learning delivery. Microlearning is so brief it is hard to do any proper assessment of the learner’s progress, right? In fact, microlearning can and should be part of a structured learning programme. While there is certainly space for discrete task-based microlearning, microlearning is also a key component of a structured training delivery programme that assesses learner progress and effectively moves the learner along the learning journey.

Microlearning delivered on to touch and swipe mobile devices lends itself well to gamification and social learning, using computer game techniques such as achievable goals, feedback loops and a community of competitors to hook in players. The potential for using engaging ways of assessing learner progress is arguably greater than for any previous form of learning delivery.

Myth 5: Microlearning is just the latest form of corporate learning delivery.

True, well-designed microlearning can be a highly effective way of delivering mandatory and compliance training, or product or service updates. However, the reality is that learners will also supplement this type of micro-learning, handed down from on high from the learning and development department, with their own privately sourced microlearning.

When an employee needs to find out how to do something in a hurry, they are likely to access a YouTube video. If they are interested in expanding their knowledge of a topic, they might well listen to a TED talk. The challenge for learning professionals has been keeping track of this informal learning, making sure that it is appropriate and that it is recorded. However, this is a challenge that is being met successfully and Speexx now has lots of experience of working with learning professionals to capture this information.

Use it or lose it

According to German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, learners retain about 75% of what they have just learnt. A month later, if there has been no review of the learning, learners retain less than 10% of that learning. Ebbinghaus called this the ‘forgetting curve’. Microlearning has an important part to play in addressing the forgetting curve. Regularly spaced repetition of the learning will help learners remember closer to 80% of what they have learnt a month later.

Microlearning has a major impact on return on investment in learning and development. When it comes to soft skills such as language and communication skills, employees who revisit their learning along the forgetting curve will be those who successfully embed the skills the business needs for the future.

Overcome the forgetting curve with Speexx!

About the Author:

Armin is the co-founder and president of Speexx, the world’s leading online language learning and business communication skills training service. He writes and occasionally speaks about learning languages online and the secret of the Perfect Blend and global talent management, Speexx, e-learning and generally believes in the power of communication. Follow Armin on Twitter and LinkedIn.