What is microlearning? That’s an interesting and often asked question. Is microlearning a simple text message? Is it a short video? Is it bound by time? Does microlearning need to include a quiz question? Many questions swirl and whirl around microlearning.
To help answer those questions, many different folks in the learning and development field have postulated definition. The goal is to define and corral the term. For example, in our book, “Microlearning: Short and Sweet,” Robyn Defelice and I have defined microlearning as “an instructional unit that provides a short engagement in an activity intentionally designed to elicit a specific outcome from the participant.” However, no matter how elegant or academic the definition, we find that most people only fully understand the term microlearning after they have seen some examples of microlearning. Once they see the examples, it helps put the entire concept of microlearning into perspective.
Examples Of Microlearning
In that spirit of defining microlearning, let’s explore the concept by looking at three examples of microlearning and determining how they are be used by organizations to achieve success.
First Example of Microlearning
In this example, microlearning is used to help fight the disease of diabetes. While diabetes is a serious disease, it many pre-diabetic individuals, type 2 diabetes can be prevented lifestyle modifications. These modifications can include exercises, cutting down on sugary foods and beverages and generally behaving in a healthy manner. To that point, researchers studied the effective of microlearning’s ability to alter the lifestyles of Indian men with impaired glucose tolerance which is another way to say “pre-diabetic.”
The participants were randomly assigned to either a control group or a mobile phone messaging program which was a basic form of microlearning. The test group received two text messages a day encouraging them to eat right and exercise. The control group received the standard educational intervention of attending training to learn how to have a healthy lifestyle and to live better. This was traditional, stand up instruction.
After two years, the cumulative incidence of diabetes was lower in those who received the text messages than those in the control group. The results were statistically significant. In fact, the microlearning presented to the men twice daily resulted in a relative risk reduction of 36%.
This shows that microlearning doesn’t need to be fancy to be effective, it just needs to be consistent and focused. The messages the men received where behaviorally focused. Specific message sent included information such as “take the steps instead of the elevator” or “don’t snack while watching TV.” This shows that microlearning does not have to contain fancy graphics, interactive questions or even interactivity to be effective.
However, a word of caution. If you have pre-diabetes, you are intrinsically or internally motivated to eat right and be healthy so the motivation is already present. This example of microlearning shows that if a person is motivated, the microlearning can be simple.
What if the audience is not as motivated? If that’s the case, what should microlearning look like. Here is an example of microlearning that includes a highly gamified approach. know more