Micro learning is the new buzz word in the Learning and Development Community. It is defined as 3-5 minute short, focused learning sessions that are designed to meet a specific learning outcome. As with many buzz words, the term is often misused and misunderstood. Many have taken it to mean that all learning should be conducted in bite sized chunks as demonstrated in the graphic below which indicates that humans have only 24 minutes per week to devote to actual learning, and that is based on a 40 hour work week, which is a thing of the past for many of us routinely working 60 hour work weeks. Others will site the growth of the millennial workforce that will make up over 75% of the total workforce by 2025 and their much talked about short attention span of 90 seconds.
However, it is unlikely that complex new skills can be acquired in 24 minutes a week, but new skills acquired can be reinforced, practiced and lead to a performance gain in 24 minutes a week. This is where micro learning really needs to be focused. On the refinement and not on the acquisition. Millennials, right alongside other generations, can be uber focused for longer periods of time when the content is engaging and rewarding.
Microlearning modules are best focused on moving right to the point without all the history behind the why, which should be captured in the original training. Video should be an important and engaging component, as should real life scenarios.
Microlearning can be an excellent approach to training for simple tasks as it improves retention and fills in performance gaps and is certainly more cost efficient. However, it should be used in conjunction with, not as a substitute for, more traditional types of learning as it is not suitable for complex tasks and can easily run the risk of seeming fragmented.