Microlearning is all the rage right now. And it makes sense: given the choice between long, dry, boring training, and shorter, more effective, more engaging lessons, who wouldn’t choose the latter?
Yet so much of the “microlearning” out there doesn’t fulfill its promise. A lot of “microlearning” is just longer materials cut up into shorter segments. That’s not microlearning. When someone puts a two-and-a-half-hour movie on YouTube chopped up into nine short videos, those aren’t micro-movies. It’s still one long movie, only broken up into inconvenient parts. You’re lucky if the breaks make sense; they certainly don’t add value to the viewing experience. And you’re still stuck sitting there for 150 minutes.
True microlearning is built on purpose. It’s not easy—ideas don’t come pre-packaged in 90- second bursts. But that’s what we’re here for. We’ve been making microlearning content since before you were 7 years younger than you are right now. In that time, we’ve come up with a few tips, tricks, and tactics to help create lessons that are compact, meaningful, informational, effective, and engaging.
Have you ever seen a bad improv show, where 5 minutes into a scene you realize you don’t know where the scene is taking place? And then it turns out they were in space the whole time? Not knowing the context for what you’re watching can be disorienting and distracting, and when you finally find out what the context is, it might turn out that the whole thing was a waste of time.
When you’re creating microlearning lessons, make it clear to your learners when and where they’ll need this information. It helps keep your learners grounded and focused, and makes it easier for them to apply what they’ve learned after the lesson.
Part of the benefit of microlearning is that shorter lessons are more practical in an environment with tons of distractions. We know people struggle to focus for an hour at a time, so we make it easier to pay attention by cutting lessons down to a minute and a half. But I’ve got bad news for you: time alone doesn’t guarantee focus. If you want people to pay attention, you’ve got to earn it.
One simple way to earn people’s attention is to answer the question on every learner’s mind: “What’s in it for me?”
Show the learner how their life (or at least their work) will be improved by your microlesson. If your learners understand what they can gain from your lessons, they’ll be more interested, more focused, and more likely to implement what they learn.
State Your Point
It seems obvious, but when you’re trying to set up the context, provide a value prop, and generally make your content interesting, it’s easy to lose sight of the main reason for having a lesson in the first place. So at some point in your lesson, state your point clearly and succinctly. Give your learners the basic nuggets of information you want them to walk away with.
You can state your point in a number of ways: by creating lists with catchy headlines, by writing a topic sentence of sorts at the beginning of your lesson that explicitly states what you want learners to take away, or by including a summary of key points towards the end of your lesson. Not only will this help learners understand and retain information, it will help you make sure your lessons are truly “micro.” One rule of thumb: if you can’t state the point in one or two sentences, it might make sense to create two separate lessons.
Watch Your Lesson’s Weight
As we’ve covered, microlearning isn’t just about how long a lesson is. It’s what’s inside the lesson that counts. With that in mind, pay attention to how much time you’re spending on each point within your lessons. If you’re making a 90 second lesson, and you spend the first minute telling a story that’s only tangentially related to the main point, the weight of your lesson may be off.
The time you spend on something tells your learners how important you think it is. In this case, you’re telling learners that the story is the most important thing in the lesson. But if the information after the story is what’s important, you want to spend most of your time there.
It’s okay to spend unequal amounts of time on different points within a lesson. In fact, it’s usually necessary. The key is to make it deliberate.
Tell A Tale, State A Stat, Quote A Quote
Even as you’re keeping everything short and focused, don’t forget to add a little spice to the mix. Including stories, statistics, and quotes in your lessons is a great way to make those lessons more effective. Quotes can help provide historical context, and give your learners a role model to emulate as they learn. Stats can help lend more credibility and meaning to your content. And stories can help inspire and engage learners, so they’ll implement what they learn and seek out even more information.
Do The Work
Unfortunately, writing a rock-solid microlearning lesson won’t always be easy. You’ve still got to do the work of analyzing information and breaking it down into a digestible chunk. You’ve got to find that great story, or stat, or quote. You’ve got to uncover the true value of your lesson that will speak to your learners.
But the beauty of these tips is that there’s no more mystery to it. You know what you need to do. So the next time you’re creating a microlearning lesson, ask yourself: have I given the appropriate context? Is it clear what I want learners to take away from this? Will learners stay engaged? When the answer to those questions is “yes,” you’ll know you have some great microlearning content that works.