Why does the suffix ‘micro-’ seem to enjoy a feeling of hipness or modernity, even when it is so blatantly unfounded? It might have to do with the fact that it points to an elementary, or basic understanding of something. This would suggest that, if you are interested in “selling” microlearning, you should have a solid grasp of the fundamentals of how general learning works. Sadly, basic statistics go against the premise that the recent boom of “bite-sized” lessons, especially in corporate settings, is due to a higher collective state of insight about the learning mind.
Instant stimulus-response by another name?
The fact of the matter is, minds from across the spectrum of understanding either take advantage of the term and its ostensible “hipness,” or outright dismiss it. It is common to believe we’re talking about an entirely new (bordering on alien) approach, or worse, a new method for a new learner. Nevertheless, microlearning’s basic criteria (bite-sized, compact, focused, context-relevant, instantly rewarded) has been available for years and is grounded in sound research.
Having said that, it is also clear that the relevant technologies and incremental knowledge we have available, compared to a decade ago, has opened the doors for bolder ideas and promotion of microlearning. The writing is on the wall: microlearning is not a new goal, but a potential source of differentiating value creation.
Micro-calibrating your (and your customers’) metrics for success
With more content interaction opportunities, it is only natural that efficacy, as defined by the progress in a given learning outcome (or set thereof) from a given interaction, feels low. In reality, this could be one of microlearning’s true advantages: Quantifiability. In other words, microlearning broadens the kinds of questions people can ask about learning interventions and outcomes. In a traditional, hourly lesson, many activities take place to which positive or negative outcomes can be linked. Microlearning lends itself to more precise connections. Evidence of more rigorous, data-based microlearning is non-existent, which means the opportunity is ripe for the taking.
To summarize, Microlearning:
- is not new, but it can modernize existing learning interventions.
- is not any kind of haiku, short video, or toy, and it is not the cure for short attention spans. In fact, it is a numbers game.
- finds a good fit in new technologies (mobile, for example) but can take place outside of them and be placed within them.
- can be easier to measure and, depending on the content creation scheme, easier to iterate over as well. (It is also susceptible of higher scrutiny.)
- heightens with context.
- is incredibly powerful but hardly utilized. (Like most brains.)
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