Microlearning On Steroids–Meet Blended Learning
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How Can You Make Microlearning More Effective?

Microlearning, bite-sized content that’s 5-7 minutes in length, can do it all. It’s heralded as a way to reach unreachable workforces, produce behavior change and improve employee engagement.

But how can we make it even more effective? Blend it with face-to-face components. Often it feels like a choice between creating stand-alone online training or classroom training, however, myriad options exist between these two models. This article will discuss how microlearning can improve formal classroom training, nurture coach/mentor relationships, and build communities of practice.

Improve Formal Classroom Training

With all the online training options available today, Instructional Designers need a compelling reason to bring workers into a classroom setting. For businesses, employees in training represent lost revenue.

And we’ve all had classroom training that feels like a knowledge dump. We might even ask ourselves why they didn’t send us the video or buy us the book. Ideally, face-to-face training should be an opportunity for participants to interact with others and practice skills with expert feedback.

That’s where blended learning comes in.

In blended learning, employees can familiarize themselves with the content knowledge through microlearning modules. Their class time becomes a chance to apply skills and receive feedback.

Blended learning offers a range of opportunities for instructors to improve face-to-face training before it even begins, especially if the modules include assessments.

Here are a few examples:

  • Learners can bring work for feedback.
  • Instructors can flag learners who need extra feedback before the class begins.
  • Students can be grouped by ability or partnered with more competent peers.
  • Students can prep questions for the training.
  • Instructors can improve student engagement by eliciting for feedback on what they want to learn.

Nurture Mentoring Relationships

Microlearning modules can quickly become overwhelming without a mentor. But, time-poor managers don’t necessarily want to be mentors.

Strong diagnostic assessments represent a solution to help managers and learners alike understand when they need help. In this scenario, learners take a diagnostic then they study any material the diagnostic flagged as unsatisfactory. Finally, their mentors can check their work samples to make sure they’ve understood the material. Ideally, the learning objectives closely mirror their real-world work, making managers excellent mentors.

In this blended model, learning and design professionals design the materials, while managers provide feedback to help employees master it. As a bonus, this model promotes a learning culture within the organization.

Other ways to nurture mentoring relationships with blended learning include:

  • Asking employees to apply for mentorship roles then give them specialized training in pedagogy
  • Developing feedback loops where mentors and employees suggest additional topics for new microlearning modules
  • Utilizing software to analyze learning data so employees and mentors can access the next step of the learning journey
  • Developing a culture of learning where everyone’s working toward self-improvement

Build Communities Of Practice

Learners often have trouble retaining information or applying new skills from their training. Learning and design professionals often use microlearning to improve retention. But taking online quizzes doesn’t necessarily improve learner application or motivation.

Blended learning can help.

In this model, learning designers can harness the power of social learning—a theory that proposes people learn by observing others. In order to replicate the behavior, people need to give it their attention, attempt to retain it and try to reproduce the behavior. Finally, they need the motivation to spark any behavior change [1].

Microlearning can be the springboard for social learning by nurturing communities of practice. Here are a few ways to intentionally create communities of practice:

  • Add forum posts as a type of assessment in your microlearning modules
  • Schedule meetings for learners to talk about what’s working and not working as they attempt to modify their behavior
  • Ask learners to seek out accountability partners
  • Provide a digital space for learners to share success stories

Conclusion

At the heart of any learning design lies the learners’ success. Are they meeting the learning objectives?

If the answer is "no" after designing microlearning modules, then it might be time to consider a blended model. Both mentors and communities of practice can be easily added to existing microlearning modules. Similarly, if short face-to-face trainings do not create learner success, then it may be time to add some online training to the mix.

Ultimately, it’s the learner’s success that matters more than whether it’s a microlearning or blended experience.

Sources:

[1] Bandura - Social Learning Theory

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