Microlearning Making Digital Learning Design More Effective

| Jul 22, 2020 | Blogs

There has been a paradigm shift in how people learn, they no longer prefer to scourge different libraries or the catalogs of the Learning Management Systems and would need the required knowledge in just-in -time (anytime, anywhere). Self-directed & asynchronous approaches has become the natural way of learning, exploring various patterns for the modern adult learners. They prefer to quickly open their favorite search engine on an easily accessible digital device and look for pointed solutions/ information as per their requirement. This information is applied quickly or allows for reflection, which in turn ensures retention. In today’s times, learners are connected to vast and diverse information sources and are also part of numerous social networks which can provide relevant knowledge/ information in a timely manner. An organization’s learning design should aim to achieve the same level of availability, accessibility, and flexibility to stay relevant. Employees also need access to related content of their organization’s unique processes, policies, and challenges when they need it, so that they can apply this information in solving the problem at hand.

While interviewing various learners, L&D professionals and through our consulting assignments, we have gathered that digital learning interventions which are designed in line with classroom style lectures rarely achieve satisfactory transfer of learning. The decreasing span of attention of modern learners is one of the major contributing factor and people prefer to watch small videos/ knowledge bytes rather than long video training sessions as it generates a high cognitive load, which challenges learner’s cognitive processing, and thus limits retention. Another major reason for the low learning transfer is the lack of opportunities to apply the knowledge gained during the training sessions. Further, ineffective assessments in online interventions do not allow the learners to reflect on the information gained and hurt their ability to retain the knowledge for a long term. There is a significant need to revamp digital learning interventions according to the modern adult learners’ perspective to achieve the desired results in today’s time.

Microlearning is beyond chunking the large content…

Micro-learning has been defined as small bites of learning intended for application and paired with a learning objective as a step towards a larger goal, easily accessed by learners, therefore, often associated with multi-media learning, and retrieved through tags and keywords. Micro-learning pulls together the overarching picture of the learning concept, providing contextual factors, provides performance support to the learner. Since it aims to provide a just in time performance appreciation to a learner, the affective/ emotional context increases paramount with microlearning.

Microlearning enables enhanced cognitive processing as learning content is delivered in short, manageable, readily attainable bursts for consumption. It allows for quick assessment for reflection on the learning gained and enhances learning transfer as the impact can be seen in a very short period of time. Learning content transformed by following principles of microlearning allows the learners to access specific information for solving a problem at hand. This opportunity to immediately apply the information makes it easier for the learner to convert it into knowledge that is retained.

Microlearning is well suited for the modern adult learner as it provides accessibility and flexibility in line with their needs. It can provide a sense of context and applicability to the learning content, which makes it more relatable and impactful for the learner. The learners can self-direct their learning based on their requirements which allows for a more effective pull-based learning approach instead of a push-based approach. For specific information, it enhances the transfer of learning as the learner is accessing the information when there is an opportunity and need to apply it. Similarly, for learning interventions delivered through microlearning, quick assessments and smaller contexts enhance learning transfer due to low cognitive load, enhancing the cognitive processing ability of the learner and ensures long term knowledge retention. Hence, learning interventions delivered through microlearning content have significantly higher probability of achieving their goals.

Learning Academy

For designing an effective online learning intervention, it is important that microlearning principles are incorporated. Currently organizations predominantly deliver micro-learning using video, self-paced e-learning, visuals (e.g., memes, infographics, images, or visual presentations), podcasts or audio, and messaging requiring short durations of attention from learners (Cole & Torgerson, 2017), as well as interactive forums. A few ideas that have been successful include using course or topic hashtags, requiring weekly posts focusing on course topics to social media as part of participation, and creating a micro-learning assignment as part of the course in which learners create their own micro-learning to share and collaborate with others by using any communication/ collaboration tool or a social community

Practitioners also suggest delivering microlearning segments which need at least 2 minutes but not more than 10 minutes to consume to ensure learner engagement without straining his or her cognitive processing. Interventions need to be designed to provide easy just-in-time access and smaller contexts to the learning content in order to decrease their cognitive load. Introducing quick and frequent assessments will ensure that the learner is able to reflect on the information gained. These frequent opportunities for reflection and application will ensure that the learning is being delivered and consumed effectively.

To achieve the desired results from a learning intervention, it is important to ensure that learning is being delivered in line with how the modern adult learner prefers to consume it. Online learning interventions need to provide a contextualized and applicable experience for them to be meaningful and impactful for the learners. Incorporating microlearning principles ensures that learning does not lose its relevancy in the modern learner’s mind.

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