What Do Instructional Designers Say Is New In Microlearning Methods For Adult Learners?

Microlearning Modules For Adult Learning
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Summary: Learn more about 3 of the latest design philosophies and applications in microlearning.

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As time marches on, the amount of information in the world increases exponentially. Workers in all industries need to absorb new information, acquire new skills, and master new areas of expertise at an alarming and ever-increasing rate. If a company can’t help their employees handle these needs, they risk falling behind the competition. How do corporate training departments do it?

Traditional, comprehensive, custom eLearning programs are great for building core competencies and helping employees thrive in a relatively stable work environment. And if they are good at learning on the job and applying new knowledge, they can keep up with trends and quickly changing conditions. But these approaches, even if practiced together, don’t quite meet the challenges of today’s information-saturated world.

Enter microlearning. This is a kind of training that uses short, focused modules to get learners up to speed quickly on simple but critical tasks. Think of a 3-minute video explaining how to install a dashcam, or an eLearning module detailing the ways a loan officer can combat money laundering. With the right application, microlearning combines the best of both worlds: it’s professionally designed, with clear learning objectives that lead to measurable behavior changes; and it focuses the learner’s attention only on the skills most relevant to their role.

To be more effective, a company’s microlearning curriculum must take the latest developments and trends into account. Here are 3 of the latest design philosophies and applications:

1. Responsive Design

The "micro" in microlearning doesn’t refer to the size of the learning device—but maybe it should. Learning needs to reach learners where they are. Where they often are is, unfortunately, looking down at their phone, so microlearning modules will be more effective if they’re designed responsively (that is, to play well on a variety of devices). Responsive Instructional Design isn’t a new idea, but more and more training departments are finally seeing the writing on the wall and including responsive design in new training development projects [1].

For example, a leading finance company recently partnered with AllenComm to develop a personal finance course that can be experienced as microlearning modules and viewed just as easily on a phone as on a desktop computer. In this case, the modules were designed with mobile learning in mind, then adapted to work well on a desktop, as opposed to the more common desktop-first design process.

2. Standalone Modules

One way to look at microlearning modules is as parts of a whole. Within a large curriculum, it’s always a good idea to split up complex subjects into their constituent parts and let the learner digest them individually, on their own time, and slot them into the organized structure when they’re ready.

But one new direction in microlearning treats the modules as complete training units themselves. In a large company, some skillsets are important for everyone to have, but others only apply to a few individuals. In an onboarding training curriculum for a medical device manufacturer, AllenComm created microlearning that allows nurses to focus only on the training they need, which allows them to incorporate learning into their busy schedules [2].

3. Augmented Reality

A classic example of microlearning is the humble instruction manual. How do I assemble this swing set? Which way do the batteries go in this flashlight? This kind of instruction has been around for hundreds of years, but with recent advances in technology, we can take it to amazing new levels.

A big challenge in using instruction manuals (even video versions) is that it can be hard to relate what the manual says with what’s in front of you in real life. A microlearning module that uses a mobile platform and Augmented Reality technology can tell you exactly what you need to know, when and where you need it. No more confusion about inserting Tab A into Slot B: the laser-focused training will make clear what’s going on, and won’t overwhelm you with information about Nut C, Flange D, and Bolt E.

Finally, don't hesitate to consider bringing in a consultant to enhance the microlearning modules in your training. When done correctly, microlearning enhances the effectiveness of your training by making it more readily available to learners in formats they prefer to use.


[1] Elements Of Effective Instructional Design

[2] BD Revolutionizes Its Clinical Practice Training

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