Modern Training

How do you convert traditional training content to microlearning?

Posted on: June 8, 2018Updated on: October 28, 2022By: JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

I’m often asked the following question: “How do you convert traditional content to microlearning?” The answer? You don’t. Well, not exactly …

Before we get into the details, first, let’s revisit the definition of microlearning:

Microlearning is an approach to training that delivers content in short, focused bites. To be effective, microlearning must fit naturally into the daily workflow, engage employees in voluntary participation, be based in brain science (how people actually learn), adapt continually to ingrain the knowledge employees need to be successful, and ultimately drive behaviors that impact specific business results. 

Business Team Training Listening Meeting Concept

Many people get hung up on the idea of “shorter” content and their instinct is to “chunk” existing courses into smaller modules. That’s not microlearning. You can’t take a 60-minute eLearning module, break it into six 10-minute modules and expect better results. Rather than get stuck on the first part of the definition, focus instead on the end: “drive behaviors that impact specific business results.” You should be making the shift to microlearning to address the changing needs of your employees and improve your impact on the business, not just to align to a popular trend.

Start small…but focused

The process of “converting” your content to microlearning begins with the question “What is the most important issue facing our business right now?” From there, you can look to your existing content as a great starting point, extracting the subject matter expertise (SME) that went into these courses to build right-fit microlearning assets.

Rather than worry about dealing with your entire catalog of 500 courses right away, focus on the topics that will be most impactful for your organization. As you become more confident in applying microlearning principles, you can expand your content offerings and, over time, complete your transition. And, because you are focused on the needs of the business, you will prove the value of microlearning along the way.

4 ways microlearning will impact your existing training content

1. Content is transformed

Today you have a 30-minute online course called “Safety in the Workplace” that covers literally everything a SME said all employees have to know about safety on the job. Unfortunately, with so much information thrown at them all at once, they walk away remembering none of it.

With a microlearning approach, you could transform this content into a series of short videos focused on specific safety behaviors that are most critical for new employees in specific roles. For example, personal protective equipment (PPE) would be covered separately from safe lifting methods. These videos, along with reinforcement questions and job aids, would then be delivered over the course of the employee’s first few weeks on the job rather than all at once. The original content is ultimately transformed into formats that better align to the needs of the employee while still addressing the requirements of the business.

2. Content is augmented

Today you have a 60-minute classroom session on advanced sales techniques that is very well-received and valued by your stakeholders. There’s no rule that says you have to change this course due to the introduction of microlearning. Rather, you should consider how microlearning can augment your classroom offering to help transfer this new knowledge into on-the-job behavior. For example, you could add a series of short videos for employees to experience before the session to help focus their time in the classroom on discussion and practice. You could then introduce a series of reinforcement exercises after the session to embed their new knowledge long-term. This would also create opportunities to measure knowledge retention and behavior change to further validate the impact of the course.

3. Content stays the same

Today you have a 20-minute online course on food safety that is a bit of a firehose of information. However, this EXACT module is required by your state regulator for all food-handling employees. Therefore, you cannot change the content or delivery method. That said, the introduction of microlearning may give you a few options to improve the employee experience for this topic. For example, if this is a course that must be completed by an employee every year, you may consider adding reinforcement questions to sustain their knowledge and prepare them for the next certification. But, overall, there will be a few instances where your content will stay the same because it’s required in some way.

4. Content is retired

Today you have a 45-minute online course on active listening that was purchased off the shelf, is not completed very often and has no measurable impact on business results. This content can be retired. I’m not saying active listening isn’t important, but it’s not likely to be at the top of the business priority list. You may eventually come back to this topic as part of another microlearning initiative, but you should not waste time on content that is not delivering clear value to your organization.

L&D must fix its content problem. Too much content lives in hard-to-access places and provides little-to-no value to the employees or the organization. Microlearning provides an opportunity to address this problem by targeting just the right content to the right people at the right time. And you don’t have to start from scratch. That’s because your existing content represents a well of expertise you can draw from to build engaging microlearning content that helps to drive measurable business results. In fact, teams that have successfully introduced microlearning often create a new content challenge: employee knowledge grows so quickly that they soon need more content at greater levels of difficulty. Now that’s the kind of content problem I want to have!

JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect's Headshot

JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

JD Dillon became an expert on frontline training and enablement over two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker in the workplace learning community, JD also continues to apply his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day in his role as Axonify's Chief Learning Architect.

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