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Why is Microlearning Great for Everyone?

They say that the average goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds, which is not very long. Well, the humans have that beat! According to several studies, the average adult attention span is now at 8 seconds. In 2000, the average adult attention span was at 12 seconds. So what does this mean for instructional designers?

Some will argue that the development of technology is a cause for the decrease in attention spans, that we constantly need to be stimulated. Just as in any profession, Instructional Designers must learn to adapt to these changes and get creative with their course design and content. One method to incorporate is microlearning.

Microlearning is an approach to designing and delivering training solutions and assessments that has been embraced by designers and learners. The design strategy is to identify smaller steps on the way to full mastery of a topic or learning goal. It shows that a complete grasp of a topic is not the only way to make progress in a self-motivated adult learning experience. Sometimes, a learner just needs to know one component of learning, they don’t need, or have time for, the ‘all inclusive package’.

Technology allows rich content at nearly any time or place and gives designers a lot more freedom and choice when designing the optimal learning experience. At the end of the day, the goal is to get the learner to understand and embrace what they are learning, but to also make it fun and memorable so that they use it!


Point over the Horizon

A microlearning experience is compelling for most learners when they see the next small goal and decide to just “do one more”. To encourage this, the course materials need to be simple and accessible with clear goals and fast feedback. When looking at your course content, look for the smallest parcels of material that be linked but delivered separately. Summarize the main points of any resource and look for end points.

When a learner chooses to progress, it is continuous and relevant– and they are also driven to come back for more and meet the required  learning objectives.


Plant Tiny Seeds of Information

Microlearning should always trigger a response for the next module.

It seems that this effect can work even by planting the tiniest kernels of information. Our amazing minds grind away on this information even when we don't know we are doing it. This resting period allows ideas to settle into our minds and become acclimated. It seems that our brains can work unconsciously even if we don't engage with specific information for months – it is better inside our heads than out. 

Each time the learner returns, they know a little more and are a little more interested, engaged and knowledgeable.


Maintain your Roads

Designing a course with microlearning components is an exciting innovation in training. However, working on the small scale makes it important to keep the big picture in front of the learner. Insert ways to review or provide a summary of the path along the way both forward and backward. A smart roadway provides a mnemonic resource for learners.

When a learner feels successful, they will be confident to use the knowledge they have gained. And this is where the rubber hits the road for designers. When the client has a successful transfer of knowledge and the learners are confident and happy with their experience, they can use the new knowledge quickly. 


Do I really need to do a needs analysis for an e-Learning course?

Absolutely – that is, if you don’t want to hear ‘I spent a day in training and didn’t learn anything at all’ from your target audience.

If you are thinking of skipping this step to help save on time and money, DON’T! Conducting a needs analysis, before diving into the design process will save plenty of hassle and mis-fires down the road. It will help to avoid training for the sake of training and will make the process a lot smoother and cost effective for all parties involved.

When starting any training project, this is the first thing that should be done. A needs analysis will help to ensure that there is a return on investment.

It will help you to identify:

  • Your target audience (they’re not always who you think)
  • Learning outcomes (and therefore, what content is relevant and what isn’t)
  • Whether training is even required (it could be other issues causing the problems, like policies or communications)
  • Suitable training solutions (what will work best, classroom, online, both?)

Here are THREE simple and practical steps that you can take for conducting an e-Learning needs analysis.

1- Determine the goals of the training

You need to think, as an organization what goals are we trying to achieve by creating this training? How do we want our learners to reach those goals? These questions can be answered by having conversations with the stakeholders and subject matter experts.  Although you are designing the course and not meant to be an expert on the desired topic, it is still important for you to have a solid understanding – dig into the topic and even the organization to see what best practices they use. This will help with the design, so it is best suited for your target audience.


2- Determine if there are any performance gaps

For this, you will want to take a closer look at the target audience. You may want to survey, or sit down with some to further discuss, should time and cost be permitted. It is important, when designing e-Learning content, to evaluate current abilities and see if there are gaps from the desired ability – that is, the difference between what learners are supposed to be doing versus what they are they are actually doing today.


3 - Determine the cause of the performance gap

If you really took the time in the previous step, you will have a clear picture of what is causing the performance gap. You will understand why there is a gap and what the cause of the gap is. This will then help you establish whether an e-Learning course (training in general) will help to solve the issue. It is important to note that not all performance gaps are cause by a lack of skill or knowledge. It could be determined that there is a lack of motivation or communication amongst employees.


Source: Tim Slade – Blog

How can you ensure that your content will get in the hands of the users?

Well there is no guarantee unless you make it mandatory. But there are a few strategies that you can consider (during the development process) to help ensure that your content gets in the hands of the users. You want to make sure that the information is readily available at the time of need, in the right format, on the right device. When we say on the right device, we must remember that the working industry has changed over the years. There is no real standard of working Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM anymore. There are even lots of workers nowadays who can call ‘deskless workers’. So, creating content that can be used on any device is key nowadays. Hence out slogan, ‘Anytime, Anywhere, on Any Device.’

The follow are some suggested strategies for you to consider when you are at the planning stage of create a learning program for your organization:

  1. Create micro content: by creating short learning units, it helps the learner retain the info more and allows them to put it to use right away. And we all know the best way to learn is to do.
  2. Make it interactive: incorporate ‘testing’ in your content, it will allow the learner to relate to the content they are learning when it is put in their terms. You can create a matching game or a puzzle piece, something that is fun – they wont even know that they are being tested!
  3. Showcase different technology: there is so much out there why not incorporate some of it into your learning! Some examples that you could use are: simulations, augmented reality, and voice assistants.
  4. Make the content accessible: by allowing the learner to access the content from any device will only increase your chances that your content will be seen.
  5. Remove any unnecessary obstacles: don’t make it difficult for the learner to access the content and better yet don’t try to create a course that is so outside of your knowledge that you have to rely heavily on an instructor or a subject matter expert.

Do you ever feel anxious? Does it ever affect your work?

Sometimes nerves can get the best of us... don't let them!

We all get nervous from time to time, it’s a natural feeling.  Perhaps you have a big meeting coming up or there is a promotion coming available at work - whatever it might be there are always situations that happen at work that will make you feel anxious. But what happens if these nerves become so frequent that they start to take over? It can have a serious impact not only in our personal life, but in the workplace as well. And if it’s not happening to you, it could be happening with a co-worker.

Anxiety disorder doesn’t just happen right away, it will happen over time. And it’s more common than you think, affecting about 12% of Canadians over their lifetime. At first you might not even notice that a co-worker is struggling. It could start off with them pulling away and avoiding social gatherings. Maybe they are starting to second guess themselves, perhaps even missing some deadlines. All of this further builds anxiety, it then starts to spiral and it can be hard to keep their head above water.

As a co-worker/ friend, you may want to ask if they are okay, but might not know how.

A good place to start would be to educate yourself on what is anxiety and how to recognize the signs and symptoms. Then you can find ways that you can be helpful and supportive to someone who is dealing with anxiety.

A common way for people to try and control their anxiety is through avoidance. Social or work functions, certain places, like restaurants or crowed areas in general, are things a person may avoid.  Even if they are willing to participate, they might put precautions in place, like an excuse to leave early, or sitting next to the door. These precautions make them feel in control when they feel like their anxiety is out of control.

Here are some additional signs you might notice in others when they are dealing with anxiety:

-The fear that its all their fault when something happens, they are going to get fired;

-Difficulty accepting negative feedback, get very down on themselves;

-Overreacts to what others are saying, could take it personally;

-Increased use of drugs/alcohol, talking of harming themselves;

-Tries to hard to be perfect and then crashes when it doesn’t turn out;

-Absent from work and/or misses deadlines.

If you notice a co-worker experience one or any of the above-mentioned signs, they could be struggling with anxiety. So how can you help? Think of ALEC – ask, listen, encourage, check-in.

1-ASK: Try to get a conversation going but make sure you are doing it in an appropriate manner, not in the lunch room when everyone is watching and listening. That won’t get them to open up. Or, if they come to you and confide information to you, acknowledge and encourage the conversation to continue.

2-LISTEN (without judgement): Let them talk without pushing the conversation. You might have caught them off guard, which at first, they might not be willing to open up but after a moment they will accept what you are asking. It might take a bit of time for them to express themselves, let them have that time, just sit in silence. This will let them know you are not in any rush, that you care.

3-ENCOURAGE action: It is great that you got them to open, but you are not an expert. Do not tell them what to do but try to guide them in a direction of action, so that they can get out of the emotional state and into a way forward.

4-CHECK-IN: Once the conversation has ended, don’t let that be the last of it. Follow up with them, ask if they have found a way to manage their situation. And if they haven’t, don’t scold them, just listen. 

An important thing to remember is that you are there to offer support, you are not their therapist. Get them to open up and talk about the issue and help guide them, but ultimately, they need to help themselves. They need to think long term as anxiety just doesn’t go away, but we can learn to cope with it.

Do know what the skills of the future are?


We are seeing a shift in the workplace with the explosion of new fields being created, which also means workers need to develop a new set of skills.

Our society is ever changing and as workers, we need to stay on top of those changes / trends in order to be successful. We are firmly entrenched in the Information Age where workers are valued for how well they can access, retrieve and apply new information. We want workers who are current with, or willing to learn, new skills and technologies.  And given the rapid pace of advancement, this is on-going - just when you think you have something down, it changes!
In past decades, workers were expected to put their heads down and just focus on the task at hand - to not ask question or provide feedback. This is not the norm anymore. Employers are looking for creative and innovative workers, who are immersed in technology, and who continuously want to develop and expand their skills and knowledge.
With these changes, we need to identify a new set of skills. Learning is continuous, it is on-going, and it needs to be encouraged in the workplace. 

A new age of work requires a new set of skills to thrive and be productive. 

Guthrie-Jensen is a Global Training Consultant firm that likes to stay ahead of the game. They created this fantastic infographic, Skills of the Future: 10 Skills You Need to Thrive in 2020.  It gives you an overview of the workforce landscape in 2020 as well as provides you with the various technologies that we expect will dominate the industry at that time.