7 Misleading Myths about Microlearning

Why are these particular microlearning myths misleading?

As you all know, I’ve been around this microlearning block a time or two. Here is a post I wrote on Microlearning being the “IT” buzzword. There are some things that ever-changing, the different types of tools, or even microlearning applications.  Some myths are harmless. Finding a pot of gold under the rainbow, who DOESN’T want to believe that? However, believing in these microlearning myths may stop someone from producing material that has the potential of making a very real difference to their organization.

So, as we all start the pilgrimage to San Diego for the granddaddy of all conferences – ATD International Conference and Expo, there are a few things I would like to clear up in Microlearning land. If you are attending the conference, the odds are REALLY GOOD that there will be a bazillion microlearning-focused sessions. I personally have two (and I hope to see you there) and I wanted to clear up myths that I hear discussed on constant rotation.

Let’s take a moment to dispel them, this way if you hear any speaker saying any of these myths are indeed fact, you know it’s time to grab a coffee.

Here are 7 misleading microlearning myths

1) Microlearning is time-dependent.

No. A thousand times no. There is no magic number. I will say this, if you have a video that is running 20 minutes, then that doesn’t quite fit the bill. Micro does mean “small”. People should be able to watch, learn and go. So my guideline is this, “As long as necessary and as short as possible”. 

Keep these figures in mind, YouTube tells us that the average video view is 4.4 minutes, and this Nielson Norman Group study tells us that only 20% of people will read a document from start to finish. So short is indeed good. This is a good way to start thinking when creating microlearning elements.

2) Microlearning is all about video. 

Sigh. Microlearning is all about performance support, and that is more than video production. For example: think infographics – here you can present people with large chunks of data in an easily consumable, visually appealing image. Video is just one of many modalities that can be used to present your microlearning content. Just keep in mind, that micro-video’s are NOT the subject matter expert talking for an hour and you chunking that video into 4-15 minute segments. That’s just death 4 times over.

3) Microlearning is just chunking.   

This is like saying all dogs are the same. Microlearning and chunking have their place in the learning playbook, but they are not the same. Chunking breaks down pieces of long-form content into bite-sized elements to manage the overall cognitive load. Which is a good thing. However, microlearning acts as standalone pieces (that can be used to augment macro content) that have focused and specific relevance. I do not need part one, of a microlearning program to understand part two.

4) Microlearning requires technology. 

The best friend of microlearning is technology, but does it need technology to rock a party? No. As I stated, at its core, microlearning has its DNA in performance support. Performance support can (and should) be a variety of applications, and not all require special tech. Think wallet cards, decision trees, FAQ sheets, job aids, checklists etc. The key is creating microlearning that fits the context of the job. People need help now, not later when they can access a video library.

5) Microlearning is one-size fits all. 

Just as elearning wasn’t the magic bullet for training, neither is microlearning. You must have a strategy for how people will use microlearning within your organization. Plopping down a microlearning element isn’t going to solve a business or training problem and unless you have targeted the problem specifically and then fully designed a solution, this too shall fail. Microlearning isn’t, in of itself, going to solve complex, behavior-driven issues. However, it can help and support complex learning initiatives. Do your analysis and work your plan. Run from anyone who tells you otherwise.

6) Microlearning is easy-peasy to create

Let me continue my thought from myth #5. Microlearning might be small but it needs a strategy and development plan. It needs someone with a focused mind to get the smallest nugget of learning that people truly need to do their jobs. This requires a person to look at the macro content and strip it down. A microlearning course should be a journey, bringing the user from point to point with a beginning, a middle and an end with the end result being a specific application of knowledge. Sometimes easier said than done.

7) Microlearning is a fad.

There are plenty of people out there thinking – this too shall pass. A fad is defined as a short-lived trend that garners a widely shared enthusiasm that burns out. That said, microlearning has been around for many, many moons. Think of the terms: Training Blasts, Learning Nuggets, Training Bites – and you’ve more than likely seen microlearning in action. A 2002 study by the BBC indicated that 94% of people prefer learning modules that are under 10 minutes. That was 16 YEARS AGO. So, a fad? No.

To wrap this up

It is true, that there are limits to what microlearning can and cannot do for your training plans and the people in your organization.  I’m hoping that busting these myths it helps you to understand this distinction and you will be able to use microlearning effectively as one of the many training tools you have to choose from.

I hope to see you in San Diego!

Need help bringing microlearning to life as a successful part of your overall learning strategy? Let’s talk. 

Or, bring the Learning Rebels, Microlearning workshop to your team and start off on the right foot!

Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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