The benefits of microlearning in the era of remote working

Out-Law Analysis | 20 Dec 2021 | 3:18 pm | 3 min. read

The shift to remote working and digital platforms in the past two years has impacted many traditional ways that businesses operate – but there are further shifts which can be made, particularly when it comes to learning.

Some businesses are now introducing ‘microlearning’ into their career development and training programmes. Microlearning is becoming a hot topic because of the way in which learning and training have rapidly been forced away from traditional face-to-face sessions towards digital and remote platforms as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, even before the pandemic, the way in which people want to receive and process information was evolving, with an emphasis on getting as much information as possible in as short a time as possible to better fit with our increasingly busy lives.

Microlearning is best described as short bursts of digital learning lasting between one and 10 minutes, delivered through a range of interventions including short films, quizzes, checklists and games. This ‘little and often’ approach is scientifically proven to help people better retain new information and is more effective now attention spans are reducing due to the fact that we are constantly bombarded with information through social media and multiple digital sources.

Why consider microlearning?

Microlearning is an effective way of reaching a lot of people in a very cost-efficient way. It moves away from the need to have staff travel to co-located training facilities for big chunks of time away from their day jobs.

Sheena Corry

Head of Design Solutions, Brook Graham

Microlearning is a more appealing way to learn, with less time commitment required. It is also much easier to fit around people’s busy lives

It also has a much higher rate of retention, so people are more likely to change their behaviours and build new habits than at a one-off, face-to-face workshop. The way in which microlearning can be disseminated at scale also ensures the content remains current and dynamic, reducing the time, cost and effort associated with keeping materials up to date.

There are multiple benefits to businesses from switching to microlearning programmes. Firstly, it ensures a better return on the training investment. Staff are more likely to retain what they learn and put it into practice as they are having frequent interaction with the content in multiple different ways.

Microlearning is a more appealing way to learn, with less time commitment required. It is also much easier to fit around people’s busy lives, so they can pick up and put down the content at will during their commute or spare moments in their day.

It encourages more proactive learning behaviour, as learners self-serve the dynamic content in way which is not possible with traditional face-to-face training. It also sends out a clear message to users that their organisation is moving with the times and is a forward-thinking place to work.

Who can benefit?

Microlearning is suitable for all industries and sectors, to all career levels and to people of all abilities. It is a very inclusive way for people to learn at their own pace and to reinforce key learning points in a way which is not always possible in a classroom setting.

Microlearning can be adapted to best suit the needs of different groups, for example supporting senior leaders with distilled messages in a short three-minute video, or offering gamification for new joiners within an organisation.

As learners do not need to be co-located or physical in the office, and because the short bursts of learning also demand less of a concentrated time commitment, microlearning helps to level the playing field for those choosing to work remotely or flexibly due to other responsibilities.

The downsides

Microlearning is not suitable for all kinds of learning content, for example very technical or in-depth new systems training.

It also needs to be well planned in advance so that learners are able to proactively chart their learning journey through the content, rather than ‘grazing’ unrelated pieces of content which may confuse or contradict.

Microlearning assumes a certain level of technological comfort and access, which could exclude a small minority who don’t have access to smart phones or good internet access.

Practical takeaways

Micro-learning does not have to be hugely expensive or require brand new systems and IT software. Organisations can very often shift to a microlearning approach using their existing intranet portal or learning management system.

However, being crystal clear on the learning outcomes and the new behaviours an organisation wants to build in its culture is key. The content needs to be targeted and clearly aligned to business objectives in order to get the best results.

Content also needs to be coordinated into a planned learning journey that learners can quickly and easily navigate. Microlearning works best when there is a clear map which builds up the discreet chunks over time and helps learners to constantly reinforce the previous learning points before moving on to the next.