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Microlearning – further education in your pocket

14/12/2021 2021/12

As the saying goes, you never stop learning.
The question that follows, however, is: Where should I start?

Because the thing with learning is not so simple. This is just as true today as it was when we sat in front of vocabulary books and tried to somehow internalize the correct conjugation of verbs.

Today, we have all the possibilities at our disposal that the world of didactics has to offer. Perhaps you use some of them yourself. If you learn a language today, then perhaps with Duolingo or Babbel rather than with the vocabulary book. But why? One of the reasons certainly bears the sonorous name: Microlearning.

Knowledge that is digestible

Because anyone who voluntarily learns something in their own free time today usually doesn't do it for eight hours a day in a VHS course. It's better to download an app onto your smartphone or tablet and use the free time and waiting times you have anyway.

Waiting 7 minutes for the next bus? You can quickly do another short exercise in the language learning app. 20-minute ride to work on the S-Bahn? Perfect for one of the non-fiction books, which have also been available in compact summaries via the app for some time now. And it can be done even shorter. Some learning apps can be set to unlock your phone screen only after you've solved a learning task. These often only take a few seconds.

This is how fast knowledge transfer via microlearning works. In small, easy-to-process morsels. But in the professional context, this trend seems to be making little headway so far. Or which learning app is installed on your work mobile phone? 

Less is often more

Many companies already see microlearning as an opportunity. This year's "eLearning Journal Benchmarking Study 2021" in cooperation with the e-learning provider youknow revealed that eight out of ten companies already use or plan to use microlearning elements. The main reason for this is the already described brevity of the tasks, which can thus be optimally integrated into the sometimes stressful workday. Because you probably know it too: The motivation to take a day off work to sit down in a training room and take notes in frontal lessons is rather low in most cases.

So imagine this: Instead of sitting in a seminar for 8 hours one day per quarter, you could also invest 7 minutes every working day at any given time and would have completed the same amount of learning. By dealing with the topic anew every day, the content would probably be internalized even better than through the conventional approach. Microlearning examples include formats such as learning apps, infographics, digital flashcards and interactive elements.

Microlearning in macro concepts

Whether micro or mobile, digital or analogue learning: knowledge transfer works best when not only individual modules are delivered to learners, but these are incorporated into concepts - or even better: concepts are developed in which microlearning is used as a method.

This can be achieved by first clarifying the goal behind the learning, i.e. what is to be taught. For this purpose, for example, an overview can be created that makes it clear what should be learned for what, whether repetitions must take place and which special features must be observed for this learning objective - for example, obligations to provide evidence or the presence of teaching staff who are qualified for this.

  • Once this overview is in place, a decision can be made: Which content should be conveyed in analogue form? At what point does a digital option lend itself and where can microlearning be the means of choice? Which learning units can be broken down and which are better left as a block event? Of course, there are also service providers for this who have the corresponding expertise in both conception and implementation. After all, it is not uncommon for the decision as to how learning is to take place to be followed by the question of whether to train internally or externally - in other words, make or buy. Especially in the digital environment, there is a large number of providers who create individual solutions and license ready-made learning packages.

What we can learn now

There is enough content. Because the focus of learning is now no longer just on specialist knowledge and instruction. Above all, soft skills and self-management competencies are becoming increasingly important in everyday working life and are also regarded as correspondingly significant by employees. Those who provide support in this area may give themselves a head start as an employer, with winners on both sides. Because learning is not just about empowerment.

Short digital units in particular are ideal for conveying a sensitivity for topics such as resilience, stress management and mindfulness. Here, regular exercises and suggestions can be an impetus to deal more closely with the topic and thus to shape your everyday working life in a more positive way. Especially in dynamic times like we are experiencing at the moment and will continue to experience in the future.

Learning should not become a chore, with units that colleagues click through "just once" before work. Microlearning in particular can be an offer from the employer to develop individually and personally and to talk about it in the team, to exchange ideas and to move forward together. This also strengthens the team bond in the otherwise so detached remote working world.

Learning does not even have to be institutionalized in the company or participation contractually required. There are so many soft-skill offerings - why not simply make one of them available to employees for voluntary use, like the coffee in the kitchen, the gym membership or the massage at work?

If you invest time and money here, you rarely do anything wrong and in most cases you don't even need a long lead time. For example, the next time you are standing in the coffee kitchen waiting for your tea to be ready, why not use the time to learn something new? You've seen: 7 minutes is optimal for this.


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