Back in 2019, only 27% of organizations (HR Systems survey) were thinking about microlearning. Out of those organizations, only 9% were actively using the strategy in their workforce. 

Post-pandemic, those figures will likely look a lot different in light of new research. And that’s because remote working has become the norm. Even with some workers returning to the office, the hybrid work model of part-remote, part-office is predicted to become permanent for most workforces.

So what do you do about training a partly remote, or even fully remote workforce that needs to constantly adapt and re-skill? It’s time for more than 9% of organizations to consider microlearning. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of microlearning, the pros and cons, and best practices.

What is microlearning?

According to research from Zhang and West (2019), microlearning is: 

“an innovation developed to meet the needs of the twenty-first-century professional by providing quality professional learning in formats that may more easily support continual development of careers and organizations.”

In practice, it’s a form of e-learning delivered in small chunks and focused on giving just-in-time or skill-based knowledge. 

For example, before Axalta started training smarter with Vimeo Enterprise, it relied on a traditional class-based approach to training its technicians. As the company expanded, the training managers knew they had to switch up the approach to meet the employee’s needs. 

Using Vimeo Enterprise, Axalta built better training systems that included live streaming and uploading of bite-sized videos to its catalog. This revamp in its training made it much easier for teams to search for what they need and connect with teams at scale.

The pros and cons of microlearning

There are upsides and downsides, as there is to nearly everything – of course! Here, we’ll show you the main pros and cons of microlearning — particularly in a professional environment.

Microlearning pros

  • Better development. On the McKinsey Podcast, a Spring 2021 episode discussed how use of microlearning is important for developing the mental muscles needed to maintain routines for learning—which helps you squeeze more from the learning experience.
  • Easier remote management. According to research from GitLab, the biggest challenge for remote workers is managing at-home distractions (47%). As such, virtual training via microlearning can help combat this because it’s short and easy to digest.
  • Great way to learn or refresh memory in busy environments. As busy working adults, who has time to learn a bunch of new stuff? Well, research shows that microlearning is an effective learning tool to help refresh memory of things you already learned, as well as a way of learning new skills in busy working environments.

Microlearning cons

  • Security concerns. One of the biggest concerns for companies operating a remote work model is security—with 43% of those surveyed citing cyberattacks as a major threat. While microlearning isn’t mutually exclusive to remote work, making sure the microlearning platform is secure (as well as the working environment) can be difficult.
  • Employees might not take it as seriously. It can sometimes be socially ingrained in people to associate learning with a classroom environment (just as the folks at Axalta thought). As a result, some employees might not take the more casual, short form of learning seriously.
  • Not great for complex subjects. Research shows microlearning is a great tool for learning specific, actionable tasks. On the flip side, this means when a subject is more complex or intense, microlearning might not be the best way to tackle it at first—but it would still make a good supplementary tool later on.

Knowing these pros and cons, you can make a more informed decision on whether microlearning is a training method you want to adopt in your business.

7 best practices when creating a microlearning course

1. Use short and/or interactive videos

The whole idea of microlearning is to use short sessions of learning. So you’ll want to ensure your learning material fits within a short timeframe. 

Vimeo Record can be a great tool for producing bite-sized content on the fly that helps employees understand a specific task as it fits into a larger process. This type of training benefits from explainer or how-to type videos. 

Interactive videos can also be extremely helpful. As a general rule, non-linear mediums force the brain to focus a little more on the task at hand (in this case, microlearning) as it has to actively engage, rather than passively consume content in front of you. 

So when you’re creating a microlearning course or building some microlearning examples to test the idea, consider interactive videos and bite-sized recordings to boost your employee’s active engagement and learning.

2. Repurpose existing training

I mentioned earlier that microlearning isn’t the best method for learning more complex or intense subjects. However, if you’ve already got a large video library of longer employee training videos for the tougher subjects, you can create smaller microlearning courses based on each one using existing clips or by chaptering the videos based on content.

If lacking existing material, educational video templates can be used to get your point across quickly — which is important when you’re in a fast-changing environment.

3. Promote information retention with recurring content

One tried and tested method of retaining content for the long term is using spaced repetition

Since the videos of a microlearning course are likely to be short and quick, they can potentially be easier to forget. That’s where spaced repetition comes in handy.

The idea of spaced repetition is that new or more difficult information be repeated more frequently while older, less difficult information is repeated less frequently. The method is mostly implemented via flashcards, but that’s not to say you can’t do it with longer-form media over a longer period of time.

By providing bite-sized video lessons and other resources in a single place, employees can access knowledge whenever they need it or when they need a quick refresher.

4. Make the videos accessible

There are two ways of looking at microlearning accessibility. 

The first is accessibility in the sense of making sure those who are not able-bodied can access the videos or other materials you’re using for training purposes. One of the easiest ways to increase accessibility is to make sure your videos have closed captions and/or are audio described.

In the other sense, one of the main benefits of microlearning is the ability to learn in busy or remote environments. So making sure the videos or course is available on mobile and other devices is also essential. And you don’t want to miss out. According to research, mobile microlearning leads to an increase in knowledge, decision-making certainty, and better task-based confidence.

5. Focus content on specific actions or processes

Another main benefit of creating a microlearning course is that it presents an efficient way of learning specific tasks or processes. Subsequently, it only makes sense to capitalize on those benefits and create microlearning videos with this in mind. 

For example, when Axalta needed to teach its technicians the proper use of a spray gun, a quick learning video about the correct technique for this specific task makes it easier. 

Using the microlearning technique, its technicians would be in a better position to dedicate brain capacity to this particular task compared to if it were a segment of a much longer video.

6. Experiment with different mediums

A lot of people consider themselves “visual learners” and prefer to see something happening in front of them to learn how to replicate its results. However, not everyone works the same way and has different learning preferences.

Some people are active learners and prefer participating or trying to do the task and learning from mistakes. Interactive videos can positively benefit this group of learners. Depending on the nature or style of work, interactive learners would also benefit from a physical microlearning experience to collaborate or work through a process in-person. 

You may also have a group of learners who prefer to listen through a microlearning session. This option is great for theoretical-based learning and can offer a chance to absorb information without the need to watch a screen. Try out different mediums and see what kind of material works best for your learners.

7. Gather data and feedback from your employees

Arguably the most crucial element of creating a microlearning course is making sure you get data and feedback from your employees. Without data or feedback, it can be difficult to measure the success of your microlearning programs or get insights into how learners respond to your content.

The easiest way to do this is to set up a feedback form for employees to fill in once they’ve completed a small course. However you can also monitor job performance using simple metrics before and after implementing the new microlearning training. This way you have solid evidence either way and can make informed, data-backed decisions about developing your microlearning strategy further, or scaling it back.

Set your workforce up for success with Vimeo

Microlearning can be a fun and effective way to train your employees for tasks and offer better opportunities for development. 

By using what you’ve learned from this guide (as well as more detailed information you can get in Vimeo’s Virtual Training Handbook), you can create a microlearning course that helps your employees remember what they’ve learned before, easily learn new skills, and do it all on their own terms.

Download the Go-To Guide for Virtual Training