Developing and distributing external training programs for your customers, channel partners or even the general public needn’t be a time-consuming or expensive endeavor.
Crafting the lessons on the principles of microlearning speeds up the process, makes it cheaper to produce and permits your learners to absorb instruction in a manner that promotes retention while fitting into their busy schedules.
What is microlearning and why is it important for your external training program?
Microlearning breaks down instructional content into brief modules, typically a lesson the learner undertakes in minutes instead of hours. Studies have shown we remember what we are taught when it’s broken down into easily absorbed bits. That’s because human brains retain instruction when it’s doled out in condensed units instead of long, drawn-out lectures or when data is piled up in heaps. Microlearning mimics how we learn best.
There are other valid reasons why microlearning should be the basis of your external training program. The learner whose attention you’re trying to engage is busy with numerous tasks. A recent study by Bersin by Deloitte reveals the customer or channel partner you’re trying to reach may have fewer than five minutes a day to set aside for professional development and learning activities.
Don’t let those statistics dissuade you from implementing an external training program. Use them to your advantage by utilizing microlearning that:
- Delivers instruction in brief intervals so multi-tasking learners can dip into lessons during the workday.
- Enables learners to better process and retain information in quick hits, as our brains are inherently wired to do.
- Fits content delivery within our decreasing attention spans.
Some (brief) general rules for microlearning
When configuring your external training programs on microlearning principles, here are some general rules to follow:
Keep it to one objective per lesson. Don’t try to teach too much in one module. Stick to the one goal the learner must master.
Test the learner. Although the lesson may be brief, quiz the learner to make sure they have indeed grasped the main concept of the instruction before moving them on to the next lesson.
“Chunk” the content. Keep paragraphs short (three to four sentences and limited to one concept) and make frequent use of bulleted points.
Using micro-content in your online training not only makes it easier for the learner to grasp. It also takes less time to produce, so your staff isn’t bogged down trying to create lengthy lessons. You can iterate and improve, plugging in updated modules where necessary.
How to deliver microlearning
Video stands out as the most popular format for microlearning, and ready access to short videos is becoming expected on many kinds of platforms. If you are a typical Facebook user, for example, you’ve probably noticed that you are playing many times more video now than you were a year ago.
Start by eliminating any extraneous information, such as how to navigate the video. Most users, particularly millennials, are savvy enough to know that already. Instead, focus only on the instruction the learner needs to get from the video. Although producing a video can be quick and inexpensive, take the time to make a polished, high quality video.
A good example of video-based micro-instruction is the Ignites Talks series. Presenters are recorded as they talk at an Ignites event for about five minutes. Each presentation uses 20 slides that advance every 15 seconds. The videos move along swiftly, imparting the most pertinent facts and don’t require a huge time commitment by the learner.
Ignites subjects range from computing on the cloud to UX design. As Ignites has done, you can stockpile a video library of lessons for your external training learners. Think of it as your company’s own TED Talks series.
But don’t limit your microlearning to just videos. Other formats can also work well, including:
- Podcasts on a specific instructional topic.
- Multimedia slideshows combining auditory and visual aids to teach a skill or lesson.
- Simulations that take the learner through an example or case study.
- Games that challenge learners to upgrade their abilities.
What microlearning is good (and not good) for
As online training becomes more common for customer education and channel partner education, one of the challenges your company will face is the slow time to launch for your training program because of the effort that content creation takes. But microlearning can lower that barrier, because shorter videos are easier and take less time to produce.
Microlearning works best when teaching a specific skill, such as how to use a software program or business procedures, which can be mastered fairly quickly. More in-depth or theoretical subjects may require lengthier and more repetitive instruction.
Microlearning can sometimes appear fragmented or disjointed to the learner. So if you do use this approach, make sure the LMS or course building software for your external training programs give you the flexibility to experiment with short lessons that support your larger business goals.