Let’s start with a disclaimer that might disappoint you. Building a microlearning strategy requires more thought and planning than traditional training.
Unlike traditional teaching methods, microlearning focuses on a particular learning outcome.
Why do we say so?
Classroom training is flexible. It can accommodate many meta-topics and blend them into one. After that, the material is delivered as a whole consisting of many sub-topics.
Microlearning strategy involves breaking down a complex concept into small units. Learning material is created to reflect individual needs.
There are many variables that impact a microlearning strategy. Let us start with a step-by-step framework that you can use to develop a strategy for your team.
Step 1: Mapping performance to task
Every strategy is designed, keeping in mind the task and the minimum performance bar required to fulfill the task. For example, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential skill for digital marketers. While SEO is large in scope, there are multiple topics that give shape to mastery in SEO. One such topic is securing backlinks (links from other websites that lead to the parent website). The ranking in Google Search results is directly proportional to the number of quality backlinks received. This means that the number of backlinks directly improves the search performance of a website. And more hits to the website means more $.
The implication: a winning performance in securing backlinks directly leads to revenue.
Thus, the result of microlearning for this course may seem to be
“Train participants on the 10 point checklist for securing backlinks from other sites. For every 45 backlinks we secure, our rankings improve by 10 positions. Our learning goal is to empower our 20 participants to secure 45 backlinks each, so that our rankings could improve by 100 points or more.”
Did you observe that the goal has very specific outcomes? The course trains 20 participants on a ‘10 point checklist’ and empowers them to secure 45 backlinks at the end. Moreover, there is a specific mention of the degree in ranking growth. Ranking improves by 10 positions for every 45 backlinks.
This is an example of mapping performance to tasks. Every micro learning objective has a specific mention of outcomes.
Step 2: Define the learner's profile
Each participant has many contextual layers that learning teams should decode before they go further.
They may be fresh graduates out of college, so a gamified approach would be more likely to be embraced.
Or they might be senior sales leaders who need to be apprised of your recent compliance-friendly features in your product, for whom a video tutorial might be the best-fit.
While learning teams are building the profiles, they could be inspired by how their marketing counterparts look at this problem statement – defining an ‘Ideal Customer Profile’ (ICP)
ICPs are the foundations of any marketing strategy. During this phase marketing teams,
- Map the buyer’s industry
- Figure out the company size of the buyer
- Chart the company’s HQ
- Filter customers by their funding amount
- Filter customers by their valuation
- Articulate a step-by-step purchase cycle
- Articulate the pain points that led to the purchase
- Extract their personal ambitions
- Enlist the challenges that do not let them sleep
- And so on.
Similarly, learning leaders can look to build ILPs – Ideal Learner Profile
Like marketing, they could also interview learners to:
- Discover their career stage
- Make a note of their key motivators
- Discover why learning programs work (or do not work) for them
- Understand the learning workflow that works for them (push vs pull)
- Identify if the learning pursuit is a need (certification for promotion) or a want (self-awareness for situational leadership)
- Identify desired outcomes
Once the profile is defined, the next step in your microlearning strategy is to evaluate the learning landscape at the firm, for individuals and the collective. It helps you understand if the motivation of the learner is in line with expectations. If not, reality is often disappointing.
Step 3: Figure out learner motivation
In Design For How People Learn, Julie Dirksen writes, “There are two kinds of motivation that learning designers need to consider: motivation to learn and motivation to do.”
By its design, microlearning is more effective for ‘doing’ missions.Here is how most ‘doing’ missions start. The learners get excited about the prospects of learning new concepts. Their imagination starts to run wild about the future possibilities that await them.
However, the bubble pops soon after they start the learning exercise. Most learning programs are remnants of failed attempts, stale content, and some brownie points for ‘effort’.
The main reasons why most learning programs fail are:
- Lack of self-efficacy: An individual’s belief in self that they can change.
- Poor expectation setting:Inability to communicate the scale of learning and change needed.
- No reinforcement of change: No scope to execute the change required in behavior.
A microlearning strategy should consider these reasons during the planning stage. Instructional designers should be a key presence in this stage.
Here’s how the essential components of microlearning design help participants overcome these challenges.
- Gamification to enhance self-efficacy: Individual scores, group scores, percentile ranks, leaderboards, etc., are the ways to enhance a learner’s self-efficacy. Even the smallest win is celebrated by badges and tokens.
- Adaptive in response to expectations: If the participants struggle with a set of questions, the application dials back the difficulty levels and quantity to meet the learner’s expectations.
- Spaced repetition of concepts along with scenario modeling to enforce right behaviors: Some business scenarios are more important to master than others (ex: responding to an irate customer). A microlearning application may pose scenarios in multiple ways : audio, video, quiz with the right answers. The explanation is also available in spaced intervals for high reinforcements.
Step 4: Define the methods of learning
At the deepest levels of abstraction, three learning models exist – push, pull and hybrid.
Let us quickly define these models for the sake of readers.
- In push learning, stakeholders with large organizational interests enforce top-down push learning. They believe in improving skills and knowledge around a particular focus area / discipline / KPI.
- Pull learning is for the individuals motivated for personal growth. They consciously seek an edge to their credentials.
- Hybrid is obviously a mix of push and pull. A push mode activates more curiosity. This triggers a pull.
Like all learning initiatives, microlearning programs also have a predetermined push vs pull vs hybrid hypothesis that would lead to success. Let’s go back to our earlier example of the microlearning program to coach employees on how to secure backlinks for SEO.
We have already established that securing backlinks improves ranks for key phrases. These key phrases are those for which the organization wants to position itself in search engines. Such a mandate is typically initiated by the CMO or Head of Digital Initiatives, which makes it a classic push.
Microlearning programs motivate learners to explore for more. They form a close group to investigate more interesting theories behind backlinking. They start sharing their interpretations with peers who introduce their own interpretations. Slowly, the learning starts traveling down the group. What began as a push program slowly evolved into a pull that subsequently makes it hybrid
But none of this would have been possible if the L&D team had opted for traditional learning instead of microlearning. Microlearning ensured there were enough motivated learners in the first place. This became possible by the bite-sized nature of the content.
Summary: Some microlearning programs would be top-down. At the same time, there is strong merit to keep microlearning programs informal and pull-based. For example, a microlearning initiative gently reminds employees to record their cold call introductions. It will help new recruits. This is a great example of pull-based microlearning delivery.
The output of these considerations is generally a microlearning map. Here’s how the map would look for our SEO backlinking training.
|Microlearning Map for Model Specification Course for MG Motor|
|Job Position||Sales Executive|
|Task||Explain the features of the car model to prospective buyers|
|Performance Criteria||The person must complete the quizzes related to the specification of diffrent models in a spaced time frame.|
|Objective||Retention of specific details of different models of MG Motor. Meet the customer with confidence and comfort.|
Notice how this microlearning exercise is specific in its approach to training sales executives.
|Microlearning map for digital marketing|
|Job Position||SEO Executive|
|KPI Group||Number of backlinks|
|Indicator||Speed of acquired of backlinks|
|Task||Ensure that SEO Executives have a strong understanding of the quality control checks.|
|Performance Criteria||Inspect these 20 quality criteria and select the top 10 criteria to evaluate if we should acquire this backlink or not?|
|Objective||Recall all quality control criteria, eliminate backlinks that do not meet the criteria, shortlist the rest.|
|Motivational element||Certification that makes them eligible for promotion to SEO Team Lead|
A microlearning map that covers all principles of the SEO training program.