Session 5: Using Modern Learning Frameworks: Microlearning

Mobile technology has changed our content consumption behaviors. Learning organizations are embracing more modular, concise models, shifting to micro-learning.

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Hey everyone, Kent Malmros here. Senior director of Vault Training at Veeve Systems. Once again joined by my good friend John Constantine, SVP at Orchestrall, for yet another virtual fire side chat on key topics in life sciences learning. And I’m excited about this one and a few to follow, because we’re going to dig into some things that are often considered trendy and maybe define them, decide if they are trends or if they have long term value, specifically topics on modern learning frameworks that come and they go. And today I really want to talk about micro-learning.

So John, we’ve alluded to micro-learning in the past. Why don’t we start by actually defining micro-learning. Certainly from your perspective, I know there’s been a lot of work done recently on this by good friends of ours, but I think your perspective would be a good way to start.

Yeah, it’s pretty simple. We all learn better with small doses that are just a couple of minutes each, that are spaced over time and delivered in a reinforced manner. It brings in a lot of design questions. It brings in a lot of questions about how to retool your strategy. So let’s assume you do have a training strategy that did not include micro-learning in the past, you need to include it now. It doesn’t mean you need to go retrofit everything you’ve done in the past. The cost of that activity is not commensurate with the benefits you get.

So my advice to companies would be if you’re going to embark on micro-learning, start thinking about your content design now for the future, that requires you to design things differently. It requires you to be able to tag things, be very thoughtful about how you tag things so people can search and find the small bits. And then part of that strategy needs to include how you space it over time and deliver it in frequency, that is, optimal for your users.

Yeah, you made a very good, important point that I know Dr. Carl Copps, someone we both respect quite a bit, professor of instructional design, has published many really successful books. Just recently wrote on this topic. And I know he is a really strong proponent of the idea that micro-learning is not just take macro-learning and breaking it up into smaller pieces. All of the learning components, all of the micro-learning assets have to have their own definable learning objective, and you have to meet that objective in whatever that short period of time is. So while it does appeal to our current content consumption habits, those that have been really formed by mobile devices, it has to also to follow really important instructional methodologies, and I think that’s a critical piece of this. So maybe give a couple examples of where it makes sense to use micro-learning in an enterprise learning strategy. How would you do it?

Well, just a recent example, a client of mine had put a pretty good size cadre of employees through a clinical project management course. So the initial course is a live course. It’s a big download of content. It’s four or five days long. It’s pretty intense. It involves pretest and a post-test. Brought in an outside expert. The trainer was awesome. And we did the typical thing during the class, and kept a rolling parking lot of things that people struggled with, that we weren’t ale to cover because it wasn’t wasn’t part of the course, but it was relevant to some of the people in the course. And we just compiled a list of things that we then created little micro bits, documents, reinforcements, and things like that we used a mobile format with the phone to send out to those participants afterwards, over the course of the next three to four weeks. Maybe every three, four days, a five minute little module to reinforce some of the things that they thought they struggled with during the course.

So that’s a really good example of how to use micro-learning to reinforce something that you delivered in a traditional manner.

You three things there that I want to highlight. First, that you can combine macro-learning with micro-learning. I think that’s really, really important, and something that people should take away. It’s not all or nothing. There are reasons to do both. The second is you alluded to the fact that these are not necessarily video based assets. I think there’s a common misconception that micro-learning means video, but because again, we’re all looking at video on our iPhones and that seems to really have been the catalyst for thinking about consuming content differently.

The third piece is, yet again, another good segue into maybe a topic we should cover in the future, which is how you deliver the training. And you talked about spacing out learning assets. So maybe a touch on space-based learning, and I think that’s something we should into maybe next time. It’s important to think about how you combine these frameworks to make them effective, and that’s a great example.

So let’s go with one last key question before maybe we close on this topic. Has micro-learning now been around long enough, and has it been proven effective enough that we can assume it’s not a fad and that it’s here to stay?

Absolutely. It’s, like I said I think in a previous topic, it’s a buzzword with legs, which means it’s really not a buzzword. It’s actually rooted in good learning science. It’s a great way to learn, it’s the most effective way to learn, particularly if you have either a consultant or in-house instructional designers who know how to reinforce learning with repetition, spaced repetition, as well as learning by assessment and questioning.

That’s right. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all wanted to deliver on micro-learning in the past, but frankly the development design maintenance process has been challenging to do in chunks. So we all just defer to creating that macro learning package so that we had to go through those processes one time. Now that we have rapid publishing technologies, we have better systems to manage those processes. I think it’s clearly here to stay.

Great tips in this particular topic, John. Really appreciate you joining me. As I mentioned next time, we’re going to get together to talk about another modern learning framework, space based learning. Thank you so much for watching. We’ll talk to you next time.

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