I originally wrote this post for and published it on the Axonify Blog …
Microlearning is a hot topic right now—and for good reason.
Providing solutions that align to the science of learning and fit into employees’ regular workflow should get people plenty excited. But, the reality is, not everyone may share your enthusiasm.
After all, microlearning isn’t just about making shorter videos. It represents a fundamental shift in how most organizations have traditionally approached learning. So, in order to get your organization micro-ready, you’ll likely need to do some homework to help people warm up to the idea.
Here’s how …
1. Recognize current conventions. Then challenge them.
Most people grow up associating learning with dedicated locations and times. We go to school for a regimented day of learning. Then we head to scheduled piano lessons. Now it’s time for homework. This institutional mentality naturally carries over to the workplace, where employees and executives alike, associate learning with a specific place and time.
But the fact of the matter is that “Learning doesn’t look like school.” (Credit to Jane Bozarth for this seemingly obvious yet wicked smart comment regarding workplace learning). We know that learning is a constant process that doesn’t rely on structure. So, help leaders see this new reality by citing real-life examples. Emphasize that every time you Google or Wikipedia a topic, you learn. This familiar ability to find, consume, and share small pieces of targeted information in a moment of need is actually microlearning in everyday life. So, don’t be afraid to argue that workplace learning should mirror this reality.
2. Be prepared to respond to objections
I worked with bite-sized content for several years—before the term “microlearning” was even popularized. It just made sense to deliver small chunks of ongoing reinforcement to employees rather than making them sit in a classroom for a few hours now and then.
But, while this was a no-brainer to me, here are some objections I faced when trying to implement it at a previous organization:
- “It’s easier to schedule people for the two hours away from the operation rather than a few minutes every day.”
- “Can’t you just put it all together in a longer class so I only have to do it once?”
- “I can’t learn stuff that quickly.”
- “How are we going to know people did it if we can’t see them doing it?”
- “I don’t have time to learn today.”
Be prepared to answer these objections by demonstrating how microlearning, done right, can improve learning results.
3. Start a Perception Shift
Existing beliefs about learning are extremely difficult to change. After all, we’ve been conditioned to accept the traditional idea of institutional learning since we were 5 years old.
So, instead of taking a “cold turkey” approach that demands a switch to microlearning, engage your audience in frank conversations about learning first. Of course, I don’t expect everyone to be as geeky about the science of learning as I am (and maybe you are). But, this process will help you get a better sense of where people stand and allow you to better communicate your point of view.
Here are a few steps I have used in the past to start the process of shifting existing perceptions:
- Ask people to Google and share a picture of what learning looks like. Do they come back with institutional images like classrooms or more modern concepts like peer-to-peer conversation and social networking?
- Dedicate a few minutes during your meetings with management to discuss—in layman’s terms—basic principles of modern learning and how they relate to the needs of your employees.
- Share practical examples of learning in context that do not align to an institutional mentality but have delivered real value to the organization (e.g. sharing on your enterprise social network).
- Relate unfamiliar ideas like microlearning to the real-world learning and problem-solving activities we all engage in every day (e.g. using a YouTube video to help fix a broken pipe).
To ensure the best possible outcome for any new strategy, it’s important to first assess the playing field and find ways to overcome existing barriers to entry. This is especially true for microlearning as the industry looks to identify best practices and success stories. I hope these tips will help.
Are you exploring the idea of microlearning in your organization? How do you think it aligns to your audience’s perception of learning? What can you do to help shift that perception if you believe microlearning can become a valuable part of your learning culture?
Check back for future posts that will explore the value of microlearning and how to bring it to life as part of a modern learning and performance ecosystem.
JD Dillon is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. He has spent 20 years designing learning and performance strategies for respected global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company, Kaplan, Brambles, and AMC Theatres. JD is the founder of LearnGeek and Chief Learning Architect with Axonify.