Stephen J. Meyer, president and CEO of Rapid Learning® Institute, defines microlearning as “bite-size single-concept learning for today’s short-attention-span workforce.”
He says microlearning has “always worked for hard-skills training.” For example, “Imagine you bought an e-learning course on Excel® or Photoshop®. You don’t take the entire course and then go deploy the learning. You learn one task at a time, usually in a moment of need. You’re at your desk and need to make a chart or size a photo, so you go to your e-learning program, watch the segment you need, practice the new skill, master it, and deploy it. This type of hard-skills learning is embedded in the work.
“Contrast that with how we’ve always done soft-skills training in areas like sales, leadership, interpersonal communication, and so on,” Meyer continues. “We remove people from their work, put them in a conference room for 2 days, and teach them dozens of learning concepts all at once. Then they’re expected to go back to their work and deploy everything they learned. This never worked. Teaching multiple concepts at once creates cognitive overload. People forget what they learned within hours or days. And only the most dedicated managers and learners go back to the manual, revisit what they learned, and deploy it successfully. The magic of micro-learning is that, like the hard-skills learning I just described, it can be embedded in the work.”
For example, “You’re a manager who needs to have a difficult conversation with an employee with a bad attitude, and you fire up a 6-minute e-learning module that gives you insight into how to do it right. That’s learning embedded in the work. It’s a solution in the moment of need,” he explains.
“I think the reason soft-skills micro-learning is really taking off right now is that people are frustrated that the legacy training model doesn’t really change behavior, which is the whole point of training. And they’re seeing that micro-learning, because it’s embedded in the work, lets people immediately deploy what they learned, which has much higher potential to change behavior,” Meyer says.