Microlearning - how to make a long story short

As far as elearning trends go, microlearning was one of the biggest for 2017 and continues even now into 2019. The term describes the use of elearning in small, bite-sized, managed ways.

Essentially the exact same practice as a normal length course but on a different (smaller) scale. Reducing the course size into a five-minute-long, quick-hit, training session – separating what you NEED to know, from what is NICE to know. Is the information critical to the learner? Will the learners ever need to know this in the job role? If the learner doesn’t know this, what would be the impact? – simple.

You can break microlearning down even simpler:

  • Minutes – 5 minutes’ maximum, design for ease.
  • Content – need to know, not nice to know.
  • Curriculum – is modular and straight to the point.
  • Form – almost always digital and aim for the most part for mobile devices when in design.
  • Learning style – quick-hit training.

However, this is a rough guide put together to help you start your own microlearning. Lots of Instructional Designers have their own way of breaking down microlearning and its course content. Find a form that works for you.

So why microlearning and why now?

This trend appeals to the changing times and technology. In short, people want to make the most of their time and would prefer to fit training into spare moments, rather than spending a half hour of their down time on a computer. Fitting learning into a quick coffee run or a train journey home is much more convenient these days. Conclusively, responding to the more profound fact that technologies are changing our day-to-day life.

How do technology advances change the way we learn and retain information?

The biggest impact technologies have had is how we think, store and retain information. Have you ever gone to watch a video on social media and thought that anything over a few minutes is too long? The answer is undoubtedly yes. People like quick, minimal, content. Videos that are short are more likely to get views and shares. They’re also more likely to be remembered for that fact.

Just like the videos we watch on social media for entertainment, microlearning breaks content down into small units (the NEED to know), and is arguably and effectively responding to this new age of quick, minimal, thinking that technologies are building.

Relation to storytelling

As part of National Share a Story Month 2017, a creation by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, I want to teach you a few things that relate storytelling to microlearning and how you can use it effectively today.

As storytelling is a huge part of human history, it has undoubtedly stood the test of time for many things. Both for entertainment values and to teach us lessons effectively. It is a belief by most historians and psychologists that storytelling is one of the many factors that define and bind humanity. Humans being perhaps the only animals known to create and tell stories.

For many of us, bedtime stories were quite frankly, the best part of the day as children. Curling up to be read to, just a quick story before bed, but also being blissfully unaware of the life lessons you were learning at the same time. Many of our children stories are written to teach communication, compassion and empathy. Crucial life lessons combined through words and illustrations that make the stories come to life, often creating a sense that you are part of this imaginary world.

Generations pass stories down to be remembered and learnt, it is no coincidence that the word ‘history’ contains the word ‘story’. It is inevitable that all information we read about today, is realistically a form of story. Fact or fiction, they help us learn and memorize.

How can children’s stories be used in relation to microlearning?


Introducing history to Instructional Design

Today, the power of short learning and storytelling is combined for a sure-fire way to engage learners. Thus, creating an ideal Instructional Design approach for an ever-changing array of information. Many situations, both at work and home, change rapidly and the need to keep on top of teaching this new information is quick. Businesses need to ensure employees are up to date on current trends, new systems and, so on and so forth.

Stories trigger imagination, emotions, and make the reader think about their actions and what path they would take. They end up focusing on nothing more than their own imagined world. Placing themselves in the characters’ shoes. This is even more critical in microlearning. No matter what the information, micro-stories can teach any person of any age if you can get them to think about themselves in the situation they’re being presented with.

If you teach a learner why, when and what – the learner will never forget.

  • Why – why are they in this situation.
  • When – when did this happen.
  • What – what do they do about it.

Short and sweet, with no unnecessary detail.

The simplest way of describing this sort of learning today is by referencing a popular series called TED Talks. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a series of videos that took off for short learning seminars and spreading ideas. Short powerful talks by people of all ages and cultures. TED Talks is available on Netflix, has various types of videos on YouTube, and is known worldwide, effectively hitting today’s technology through social media. Keep your microlearning short and powerful like these and you’re good to go.

Tips for micro-stories

  • You must keep microlearning short, aim for a maximum of 5 minutes or less. Whether you are using a story to portray the information or not. You want to give people access when they’re short of time and keep on trend with simplicity.
  • Do not start with ‘Once upon a time…’ nobody will have time for that and you will lose them in the first 30 seconds. Use a story effectively through scenarios and go with a simple ‘Beauty fell in love with the Beast before the last petal dropped.’ Learners have no need for intricate detailing. Just the main event, they get it.
  • You do not need fancy animations and clicks for microlearning. The aim is to keep it short and simple. They add on time that the user doesn’t have, and hover states do not work well on mobile devices.

Give microlearning a try and get on board with eLearning’s biggest trend, we think you’ll like it.

Tags: #Microlearning #Micro-learning

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