Learn Better Microlearning Science

Practical Answers to Five Common Questions About Microlearning

Written by Julie Gora

Q+A from our latest webinar: Microlearning for Transformation, Not Information Transfer.

Employees today are often overworked and overstressed, so when it comes to workplace learning, how much time can they really devote? And is that enough to meaningfully change behaviors? Studies show that modern employees have 1% of their typical work week—or roughly 24 minutes—to focus on training and development. Although it doesn’t seem like enough time to get much done, with the smart use of microlearning, you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish.

In his latest webinar, Grovo’s Director of Learning Alex Khurgin explained how workplace learning can be elevated from information transfer to transformation by using digestible and and easy-to-access microlearning experiences. In other words, actually changing what employees do, rather than simply increasing what they know.

You can watch the entire webinar here:

Throughout the webinar, it became clear that attendees were excited to start incorporating microlearning into their larger learning programs and build lasting behaviors in their people. However,  there were still questions surrounding exactly how to do it, in nitty gritty detail. Although there was time set aside for a Q+A at the end of the webinar, Alex wasn’t able to address all of the fantastic questions that came his way, so we’ve chosen five of our favorites to address here on the blog.

How does microlearning work with project-based learning?

The term “use it or lose it” applies to many things in life, especially new knowledge, so practice and accountability are key to building behavior change. While microlearning allows learners to spend bits of time learning the fundamentals, a project-based approach takes it one step further by engaging learners in realistic challenges to apply those fundamentals, practice their new knowledge, and stay accountable.  In fact, many organizations combine the two, leading to even larger gains in performance.

Say you’re training your team to use design thinking to solve problems. You might start by introducing the fundamentals of design thinking through microlearning lessons and then follow up with a simple project or prompt that utilizes the specific behaviors taught in the training – such as, “How should we recognize employees for doing good work?” They can practice in a safe environment, before applying the skills to their work.

Does microlearning need to happen every day in order to change behaviors?  

Daily learning is great for a few reasons: sleep prunes and consolidates memory—which is essential for learning—and a daily approach is also great for building habits. A strategy for daily microlearning might be 5 minutes of brand new knowledge a day, reviewing or reinforcing something that was learned the previous day, or elaborating on new knowledge or skills over the course of a few days.

Daily is recommended, but your learners will still get similar benefits by taking a day or two off between lessons. Just be aware that the longer the training is drawn out, the more likely your learners are to disengage or lose interest. Ideally, your main learning experience is 5 minutes a day to start with regular follow-ups to capitalize on the spacing effect.

What happens if my employees don’t realize they have a need for learning, or they think it’s not important enough?

If there is no point of need, there’s not enough motivation to change behaviors. Which means if you don’t have one, create one! Launch training with fanfare and make it a huge deal, create a new standard of performance with set expectations, involve role models or senior leaders to stress the importance of the new learning program, or mandate the training with some sort of consequence—do everything you can to make it feel urgent and important. You’ll get all the benefits of a point of need and your learners will be motivated to learn because they’ll feel obligated to meet the expectations.

How can I apply this framework to technical skills and behaviors?

Building new behaviors with microlearning is not just limited to soft skills—you can break down technical skills into behaviors, too. Take PowerPoint for example: instead of training based on tools, like how to apply transitions or include video, try breaking training up by behavioral goals, like how to tell a good story in PowerPoint. Your learners will master the tools and functions in the pursuit of the behaviors you actually care about changing.  

What’s the difference between capturing attention with microlearning vs. standard training?

Research shows that today’s attention spans are about 60 seconds. Typical “mass instruction” formats, like lectures or workshops, cognitively overload learners which leads to distraction and disengagement. Learners may never reach that aha moment where the training clicks, and if they do, they lose their enthusiasm to put it into practice.

Conversely, microlearning is the process of building successful behaviors in small, focused segments—working within the confines of how today’s employees learn. Since each lesson is separate and focused, learners get to the aha moment faster and are more excited to put what they learned into practice. Microlearning also sets high and clear expectations from the start. If the expectation is just a few minutes of learning at a time over the course of a few days, it’s much easier to pay attention—and much appreciated by your busy employees.

Thank you to everyone who attended the webinar and asked such great questions. If you watched the webinar and have more thoughts or questions on how to incorporate microlearning for behavior transformation, leave them in the comments below or tweet @LearninKhurgin and @Grovo, and we’ll get you answers right away!

For more information on microlearning, visit our site here.