DevLearn is an event put on each year by The eLearning Guild. This year’s event is being held in Las Vegas, Nevada at The Mirage from October 25 through 27, 2017. As one of the largest technology-based learning conferences in the world, it brings together some of the best and brightest from the learning community to learn from one another, share best practices, and explore what the future of learning may hold. In fact, this year’s theme is “The future is here.” This year we have the honor of being selected to present a one-hour concurrent session, The Next Big Thing is Small: 20 Pros and Cons of Microlearning. In light of our upcoming presentation, we thought it only fair that we share some of those pros and cons with the people who cannot be there in person with us this year (or who want a sneak peak of this year’s session).
What is Microlearning?
With shrinking attention spans, better technology, and an era of “instant access,” the way people learn is changing. Learners want access to only the information they need, when they need it, without having to sit through any extra content – enter the rise in popularity of microlearning.
According to eLearning Industry, microlearning is “a way of teaching and delivering content to learners in small, very specific bursts.” According to most eLearning experts, microlearning should be 5 minutes or less, although it could be more…or less! While microlearning can take many different forms, microlearning is not for every topic or for everyone. This post will explore some of the pros and cons of implementing a microlearning strategy at your organization.
Pro #1: Learners can access learning at their moment of need
Arguably, the biggest case for microlearning is the fact that it can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and on any device. There is no need to sign up for a class or wait until an annual training program to obtain the knowledge or skills you need now. Instead, the learner can watch a quick demonstration or listen to a short pod-cast on the specific skills or knowledge they need immediately, when they need it most, and then apply that knowledge.
Con #1: Cannot be a company’s only learning strategy
Microlearning is short and addresses only one learning objective at a time. And, as we’ll see momentarily, is best suited for introductory-level material. Therefore, it should not be a standalone learning strategy. Companies and organizations will still need other methods of training, whether it be instructor-led training, full length eLearning courses, or simulations. Microlearning should be viewed more as a performance support tool (PST) – something that can help the learner recall information learned in a formal training program or something that can help the learner at their exact moment of need.
Pro #2: Microlearning is fun and entertaining compared with traditional learning methods
As we discussed in a previous blog, microlearning can take many forms, most notably, video. Video is the preferred learning method of most millennials. It’s entertaining, informative, and short. Video has the power to capture the attention of your learner and convey your message using visual and audio cues to help make the message stick. All said, video can be a very powerful tool in your learning toolbox.
Con #2: Microlearning videos can focus on the entertainment factor and lose sight of their objective
While it is true that microlearning, and especially video, can be very entertaining compared to traditional learning forms, it still must effectively transfer knowledge or facilitate learning, or it’s all for naught. The instructional designers, SMEs, and programmers must all be mindful of the learning objective of the course and the skills or knowledge that must be transferred, but it can be very tempting to instead get wrapped up in making your video more fun or entertaining to the learner.
Pro #3: Great for intro-level or basic material
Microlearning is short, often five minutes (give or take a few). So, microlearning is great for introducing the basics of a topic or going through a relatively short and straight-forward process. These less complex topics or processes can be broken down into a few simple learning objectives that can be achieved by one (or a few) microlearnings within the short time frame allotted to most microlearning formats.
Con #3: Not ideal for technical or complex content
As a company that develops and instructs learning on technical accounting topics, this is something we’ve learned the hard way! It is hard to explain the complexities of a new accounting standard in 5 minute increments. There are just some times when the learner needs to focus and dedicate the time to understanding a topic…and complex or technical content is one of those areas where microlearning just does not make sense. The learner needs a place to explore the topic in detail, ask questions, and practice applying what they’ve learned. This is often where formal classroom training or eLearning comes into play.
We Hope to See You There!
This is a can’t-miss experience if you or your company has an interest in learning through technology! This will be our third year attending DevLearn, and we’re sure it’ll be just as wonderful and inspiring an experience as it was the first two years. You can read about our past experiences here and here. We’ll be presenting our Concurrent Session, The Next Big Thing is Small: 20 Pros and Cons of Microlearning, on Wednesday, October 25. Not only will we be presenting our Concurrent Session, but we have also been accepted to compete in Demo Fest for the third year in a row! We’ll be presenting our submission, A Blended Solution for an Accounting Revolution, which includes an example of how we combined microlearning with traditional classroom training and eLearning to teach a new and complex accounting topic. So, with that, we hope you are able to come out and check out all that DevLearn has to offer, and, if you do, please be sure to stop by and say hello!
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