Microlearning

The 7 most important microlearning principles for company training programs 

Posted on: May 31, 2022

Microlearning is invaluable for corporate training, but there’s a lot of confusion about how to implement it effectively. In its most basic sense, it’s a means of delivering training material in short, targeted segments—often in sessions as short as five minutes or less. But that’s not the whole story. 

If you’re just shortening the duration of your training content, you’re missing the value of microlearning. If you want to see how microlearning can engage trainees and result in the desired skills development, knowledge retention and workplace behavior, you have to apply a few essential microlearning principles. 

1. A clear business objective 

You need to begin with a clear learning objective that can be succinctly defined and acted upon to deliver foundational knowledge—as opposed to juggling more traditional, overstuffed training goals. 

For example, instead of building a general course about safety that includes everything and anything an employee needs to know on the topic), build targeted solutions to address specific safety objectives (ex: personal protective equipment, spills, ladders, etc.). Then stack these pieces together over time to align with good learning principles. 

2. Desired employee knowledge and behavior

While knowledge is important, it should ultimately translate to desired behaviors on the job. Therefore, any microlearning approach should be tailored to impart the information that would guide these behavioral outcomes. 

Make sure you know what people need to DO on the job to achieve your business goal. Work with subject matter experts to identify behaviors that make a difference, and connect the learning objectives to required knowledge rather than trying to force every possible piece of information into the training. Only then can you train employees effectively. 

3. Spaced repetition

It’s easy to grasp the relationship between repetition and knowledge retention, but it’s difficult to make it happen in a workplace where people don’t have time and where learning and development professionals have limited access to the workers. 

That’s where microlearning comes in. Microlearning helps you extend the training experience beyond the classroom or eLearning module. It allows for ongoing repetitions at spaced intervals to ensure that the information sticks. And it only requires a few minutes per day of the employee’s time. 

Studies attest to the fact that spaced repetition is imperative for knowledge retention. The average person forgets 50% of learned material within 20 minutes. Within a month, they forget more than three-quarters of what they’ve learned. However, if the information is reinforced at repeated intervals, retention increases dramatically. According to one study, retention can increase to nearly 100% by the fifth repetition when microlearning is used to reinforce the information.

4. Retrieval practice

Retrieval practice involves using questions to encourage memory recall. Rather than just reinforcing the information, you have to nudge participants to actively remember what they’ve learned. Flashcards are a common example of retrieval practice in traditional learning strategies. 

A good microlearning program might use the digital equivalent of flashcards in the form of questions presented on a screen. For instance, Axonify uses a question-based format to guide the learning process. Questions are repeated at spaced intervals to promote knowledge retention (per the previous point), but it’s ultimately up to the learner to recall the answers. 

This type of brain exercise further helps to solidify the information in the participant’s long-term memory. 

5. Confidence-based assessment

It’s not just about what you know—it’s about having confidence in that knowledge so you’re ready to apply it in the moment and make a good decision. In other words, you must be metacognitively aware of your abilities and knowledge so that you can deliver the best possible results at a moment’s notice without second-guessing yourself or depending on anyone else. 

There’s tremendous value in this type of metacognition, so how do you instill it in your employees? In short, your microlearning modules should be equipped with some type of confidence assessment. 

Axonify, for instance, asks participants to rate their level of confidence when answering questions. This kind of learner feedback is invaluable. When you know how well (or how poorly) an employee’s knowledge aligns with their level of confidence, you have a much better idea of their readiness—and a much better idea of the workplace training that’s still required. 

6. Anywhere, anytime access

This is one of the big microlearning gaps today. Your learning content may align to solid principles, but if people can’t access it or it’s too difficult to use, people still won’t do it. And microlearning solutions are only effective with regular participation. 

One of the simplest—and most important—ways to make your microlearning content accessible is to ensure that it’s compatible with the devices that people use every day. 

But more than just being accessible on your employees’ mobile devices, your eLearning courses should be mobile-optimized and user-friendly. To ensure maximum participation and engagement, you should ensure that each microlearning module appears neatly within the display dimensions and loads quickly even in low-bandwidth environments. That’s why it’s so important to use a quality mobile LMS to guide your learning experience. 

7. Meaningful metrics

You might think your microlearning solution is delivering results, but can you be sure? You want to be assured your platform offers meaningful data like participation rates, scores, rankings, drop-off rates and commonly missed questions. Axonify even goes beyond traditional eLearning analytics to show you how your training efforts are influencing your most important business KPIs like sales, revenue and customer service. 

With the right metrics at your disposal, microlearning can help you measure specific knowledge/behavior data as well as the change over time needed to determine if your training strategy is actually working.

Don’t neglect the most important microlearning principles 

It’s not enough to deliver training in five minutes or less. Your overall learning strategy must have a purpose, and it must be tailored in a way that appeals to proven brain science and learner behaviors. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time. 

The best way to implement microlearning is to use a modern learning management system that not only has microlearning built in but incorporates the basic principles listed in this article. When used effectively, microlearning will deliver a better learning experience that’s more engaging and more conducive to the results you’re seeking in the workplace.