There’s a buzz around micro-learning in training circles. A brief survey of the training-oriented discussion groups on Linked-in suggests that as with many au-courant terms, this one isn’t very well defined.

The basic idea is to break training up into very small, highly digestible “chunks” – but what this looks like in practice varies from making 5 minute videos available as part of a performance support tool to editing down a 4-hour(!) webinar to a one-hour one. There seem to be a group of people who regard lessons 15 minutes in length as the typical micro-learning object.

Of course, micro-lessons do not necessarily lead to learning! But the hope is that by requiring a minimal time commitment from learners, that there will be more uptake of the offered lessons. And perhaps that this learning will take place on non-company time, like the morning commute.

I’ve also seen micro-learning cited as a cost-containment strategy for training departments. I’m skeptical —  the work involved in assessing learner needs and structuring easily accessible platforms for information delivery doesn’t vary much with the size of an individual unit-of-training. Arguably, scheduling the delivery of numerous small lessons may be more complex that delivering longer training experiences.

It seems to me that there are two obvious places for small learning “snacks”

  1. In the performance support system. Workers looking up how to do something are grateful for nicely packaged job-aids which focus specifically on the task they are trying to do – and it’s awfully nice to have the more in depth treatment of the topic right at hand in case the small module raises more questions. Meeting the need for just in time/on demand training is rightly the function of the performance support system
  2. As reinforcement modules, following up on longer, more formal training experiences. Weaving the concepts presented as part of a training program into the daily workflow can be done with a nicely timed email to the trainees, offering a reminder of the content, and perhaps a bit of preparation for the next stage of training.

Where do you see micro-learning serving your organization?