If you follow so-called learning trends, you’ve been hearing about microlearning. It’s everywhere. It sounds fancy. Suddenly, learning professionals want to call all of their training microlearning, even if it does not fit the description. Sharon Boller, president at BLP, offered a word of caution about microlearning last year as the hype was growing. Like other learning trends such as mobile and gaming, it is not a be-all, end-all solution to every training need.
We have been creating microlearning for many years—even if we may not have called it that at the time. In 2012, Sharon wrote about the concept of ‘learning snacks’ in her Learning Trends, Technologies and Opportunities white paper:
Across our client base, the consistent demand is to limit course length—or to somehow modify the instructional design so that it’s possible for someone to “consume” a course in smaller chunks. As tablets and phones enter the workplace, we also see clients getting excited by “just-in-time” access to ePubs and reference tools. There’s a bigger push to reduce the total time spent in formal training. Conversely, there is a perception that people need more and more information to do their jobs effectively.
In its simplest form, microlearning is a terrific way to reference materials, look things up, do things, etc. In its most advanced form, microlearning allows you to reinforce, deepen and extend learning. But when we talk about trends like microlearning, mobile, game-based learning and the like, it’s important to remember that these trends are not entirely separate from one another. They are really part of a single trend: a shift towards anytime, anywhere, engaging learning solutions that foster long term retention and performance improvement.
Let’s look at how these three approaches to learning work, and play, well together.
Game-Based Learning Drives Engagement
Countless studies have shown the benefits of game-based learning as opposed to traditional training approaches. Game mechanics and game elements can motivate learners and help them connect with training on an emotional level. At least when they are designed well and linked to appropriate learning objectives. Games can soften the resistance some learners feel when faced with a required training. Innate characteristics of games, such as feedback loops and stories, also make it easier for learners to remember what they’ve learned.
Microlearning Improves Retention
When you do microlearning correctly, it is not a one-off, disconnected event. They introduce a concept, then build on it in short chunks. In fact, you should use spaced repetition to design the best microlearning. This helps to reinforce key content and objectives over time. A game-based learning or gamification solution that encourages short play sessions over a longer period of time can be highly effective at improving recall if the content is reinforced with each repetition. A word of caution: introducing new content with every microlearning lesson or gameplay session is little more than a distraction.
Knowledge Guru games use spaced repetition and feedback loops to distribute content to learners. We also incorporate spaced repetition into the custom blended learning curriculums we create for BLP clients.
Mobile Learning Increases Adoption
For any learning solution to be successful, its needs to be readily available on learners’ device of choice. Unless you work in a call center environment or somewhere that phone use is prohibited, mobile is your best bet. Most of us habitually check our smart phones throughout the day, perhaps beginning and ending each day with screen time. By delivering game-based learning in short bursts on a mobile device, you make it easy for learners to take part.
How Knowledge Guru Brings Game-Based Learning and Microlearning to Mobile Devices
Knowledge Guru games are broken into short topics that are playable in just a few minutes a day on mobile or desktop. As learners play, Administrators can turn on auto-reminders through email or push notifications that remind learners to come back and play. Learning objectives are progressively reinforced as players return over time.