5 Guidelines For Task Analysis In Microlearning
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Task Analysis In Microlearning: 5 Key Guidelines

You might ask, "How are microlearning and task analysis related?". Ask another question: "If my microlearning is not task-focused, will it succeed?". These 2 questions get to the heart of successful microlearning creation. The guidelines in this article encourage you to base each microlearning experience on an identifiable, accurate, simple, and single task. A 5th guideline unrelated to task analysis is included for completeness: make your microlearning visual.

Follow each of the 5  guidelines in this article to keep your microlearning experiences short and focused. The principles are the essence of a minimalistic approach. Your learners will appreciate your efforts.

A "task" is a single set of steps leading to a small, complete achievement. As an example, consider instructions to assemble a bicycle. Steps are simple instructions like "Push the 2 hand grips onto each end of the handlebar". Tasks describe creating sub-assemblies like the handlebar assembly. The last instruction in a task may be "Attach the handlebar assembly to the bicycle frame".

Each task description should occupy less than a sheet of single-sided paper with illustrations. When recorded as a microlearning video, a task takes no more than 2 minutes to explain. The example is a full set of instructions for assembling a bicycle. The diagram shows the task-level instructions.

1. Is It An Identifiable Task?

It sounds easy but sometimes is harder than it looks. Do you really know what the task is and have an accurate name for it? In creating the example, I thought about the bigger picture before focusing on the tasks. I used a hand-drawn chart to help me "visualize" the finished assembly and all of the parts and tasks and steps that would be required to get there.

Each task has a set of steps in the bike example. The preparation task includes things like checking that you received all of the parts, getting your tools ready, and ensuring you have the right lubricants.

Is this task identifiable? Most instructions have similar steps. It does not attempt to include more detail than it should; it is just about getting ready. It meets my criterion of being an identifiable task.

2. Is It An Accurate Depiction Of The Task?

There is only one way to find out if a task description is accurate: test it. In the example, perform the assembly steps. The more complex the task, the more likely you will need to consult a Subject Matter Expert. How many online videos have you watched with a goal of learning how to perform a simple task and you get the information you don’t need? It is possible the creator either did not test the procedure, did not test it thoroughly, or did not consult an authority.

It is also possible the task description is not specific enough. There are different types of bicycles that may require variations of the task. If that is the case, I would make friends with a bike shop owner or technician to make sure my task descriptions are accurate and cover any variations.

On the assumption that my microlearning will include a disclaimer that the tasks are ones shown most often, it meets my criterion of being an accurate depiction of tasks.

3. Is It Simple?

A warning bell should go off whenever a microlearning creator wanders outside the target task. Don’t succumb to the temptation to include too many irrelevant details. Your learners will fill in gaps, especially if your microlearning is visual. You don’t need to say, "Tighten the nut by turning it clockwise" if your video or pictures show it. More about the visual nature of microlearning in a moment.

To judge the simplicity of your tasks and steps, have someone review your work. Ask them if your instructions are simple enough for your target audience.

4. Is It A Single Task?

Another way to ask this question: "Is it or should it be more than one task?". This guideline is related to the other ones. Where do I stop? How much is enough? A big threat to microlearning success is including too many steps when there are good, logical places to break them into more than one task.

"Information chunking" is a related discipline that helps writers and designers break their content into manageable bites of information. Being aware of the size and complexity of these bites can improve information organization as well as learner comprehension.

Going back to the bicycle assembly example, I created the chunks to incorporate related steps. For example, I decided the handlebar task would include the step to attach the handlebar to the frame. Alternatively, you could instruct learners to attach all subassemblies in the final task, 'Finish'. In that case, the final step would have been "Set the handlebar assembly aside for the final task, bicycle assembly".

5. Is It A Visual Experience?

It is said elsewhere but bears repeating: make your microlearning experiences visual. Show, don’t tell. Use a minimum of written text. Doing so keeps your microlearning small, comprising easily digestible chunks of information. In fact, some better microlearning examples have no text or narration: the pictures or video show every step the learner needs.

Your selected medium—video, audio, paper, or in-person instruction—influences your decisions about how much text or narration to include. Just make sure it is the minimum required to teach the task you are covering.

Summary

Microlearning and task analysis are related. For best results, perform a task analysis before creating a storyboard for a microlearning experience. This will help you focus on 5 things to successfully create microlearning experiences: base them on identifiable, accurate, simple, and single tasks. And make your microlearning as visual as possible to help keep the steps clear and short.

The result of my task analysis, design, and storyboarding would be a series of 5 videos, each about 1 or 2 minutes long. Each video would feature a professional bicycle technician performing each task.

After surveying the audience, I would hope to find the microlearning videos are successful.

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