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How Microlearning Can Make Your Training More Effective (and Less Boring)

What Is Microlearning?

Microlearning is an approach to training that emphasizes the delivery of content in bite-sized chunks, taking around 3 to 6 minutes each. This integrates with employees' daily flow much more effectively than hourlong or even daylong training sessions and also helps to target the knowledge that employees really need to learn.

Why Does This Matter to Libraries?

Librarians tend to wear a lot of different hats. They often learn on the job, rely on volunteers, and have a small staff base, meaning that staff members can have broad and flexible job descriptions that in some cases take them outside of their expertise.

Microlearning is useful for all companies, but for libraries it allows a smooth and quick onboarding process and facilitates focused refresh training for staff members who step outside their comfort zone. It allows staff to easily jump between roles, performing them effectively without putting everything on pause for a day's worth of training.

A new training technique can feel like a daunting prospect. Maybe you're overwhelmed with the idea of all the admin required to update your training processes. You have better things to do, and your current training and onboarding program is working just fine. Well, here are some reasons why all that work might be worth your time.

Led by Learners

This aspect is crucial to the microlearning concept. Employees decide when they complete their modules, and they can choose to learn extra material outside of what is essential. This gives them ownership over their training. Plus, by only receiving content that is actually needed, they see a direct relation between what they learn and what they do in their work. Employees tend to be far more receptive to training when this is the case. Especially when sessions are so short, they are far less likely to resent the training as it is clear that their time is being respected and the content is directly relevant to them.

Rooted in Psychology

Microlearning has been around for a while. Its recent resurgence is, in part, due to a renewed interest in brain science, which indicates that we retain information best when it is delivered in short chunks. Our attention spans are very short nowadays, and so longer training events just aren't as efficient when it comes to retaining information. If we give people only the information they need, cutting out the fluff and dramatically reducing training time, we ensure that the information they retain is the information they need.

Workflow Compatible

Everyone is always busy, and nobody has time for three-day-long, whole-staff training events. Besides, most of that information is not going to stick, and it's not relevant to most people anyway. Rather than totally steamrolling your employees' workflow, microlearning fits right in. Are you waiting in line for your morning coffee, or have a quiet five minutes at work? That's plenty of time to complete a microlearning module.

How Can I Bring Microlearning into My Library?

Axonify gives some detailed guidelines on designing microlearning content, and there are plenty of services — Axonify included — that will provide learning content for your workplace. However, if you want to design your own, here are a few top tips.

Focus on Results

The big key to designing microlearning content is to be led by the overall changes you want to see in your organization. Do you want more efficient onboarding? Better management of disruptive patrons? From these wider goals, you can home in on what your employees actually need to do to realize those goals.

Only Teach What Is Necessary

Start with the behavior you want from your employees and design content to achieve that. Figure out what your employees actually need to know, versus useful but unnecessary information. You can make extra context and deeper learning about a topic available for employees to look into if they choose, but prioritize the bare essentials.

Make It Interactive

We maintain information better when we are forced to use it right away. Putting new knowledge to work helps to contextualize it, make its purpose clear to learners, and engage different learning styles. For these reasons, the use of quizzes, practice exercises, and other interactive content makes your microlearning modules more effective.

Additionally, the use of visual cues like videos, flashcards, and infographics can help learners to retain and recall information more effectively.

Accessibility Is Key

Try to have all of your content accessible to learners in one searchable database — perhaps even an app. This means that employees can get a quick refresh of content whenever they need it, such as a quick refresh of the labeling convention for new books. Consequently, there is less of a burden on supervisors to answer questions, and employees are more self-motivated in finding information.

A Training Revolution

We hope this sheds some light on where all the microlearning hype is coming from. There's plenty of material out there to help you develop your own microlearning content, as well as companies like Grovo and Axonify that will do the legwork for you. Here's to training that is more effective and less boring.

Additional Resources

TechSoup has launched the Digital Skills Center in partnership with Microsoft to develop microlearning content to help nonprofits adopt digital skills.

Other resources: