From Pots To Pods
Perhaps you’ve been standing in line at your favorite coffee house and heard something like “I’ll have a grande, quad, nonfat, one-pump, light whip, peppermint mocha, extra drizzle.”
To be clear, I have absolutely no idea what that order means (seriously, I take my coffee black). But it does mean something to the person who ordered it. In fact, it’s the precise combination of instructions and ingredients that will yield the perfect cup of brew for that particular patron.
Much like a custom cup of joe, microlearning (aka small learning units or short learning activities) can serve up content that’s perfectly sized and personalized for any learner, at any given moment.
Like me, after my first two cups of morning coffee, microlearning is focused. It’s concentrated on one learning outcome. It’s often informal, allowing learners to access when and where they want. At its best, microlearning is used for on-the-job performance support, post-training reinforcement, and bursts of spaced learning retention. Small cups of learning are often just enough, just-in-time, and just right.
Adding small bursts of content to your learning menu can jolt learner attention, satisfy the modern expectation for short input, and stir up retention.
Remember when people used to make pots of coffee? Neither do I. However, I’m told recent archaeological digs have turned up globe-looking vessels containing remnants of coffee residue. The fact is, large community “pots” have given way to smaller personalized “pods”.
You may have noticed a similar trend in learning. Many companies are now looking to incorporate a microlearning approach to their overall learning strategy. In addition to larger pots of formal training, businesses are also offering smaller pods of microlearning.
Microlearning Perk: Allowing learners to order a “small” cup of content when the craving hits is good for business.
Just In Time
If you need a caffeine boost, the idea of waiting to brew a full pot of coffee can seem torturous. In much the same way, modern learners expect the information they need instantly and on-demand. They don’t want to filter through large courses to find the information they desire. Time-consuming searches for relevant material may leave them “steaming”. And they certainly don’t want someone else telling them how to take their coffee.
Instead, modern learners want to “mobile order” their content, quickly driving-thru pertinent subject matter so they can pick up the exact knowledge they need.
Microlearning Perk: Whether it’s shorter sips of learning consumed over time, or a frantic last-minute order for knowledge, microlearning can provide the precise information learners crave in their exact moment of need.
Like that personalized drink I mentioned earlier, microlearning allows for made to order learning. Because consumers of knowledge can access any item from anywhere, learning can be specific to individual tastes and needs. You can view a large pot of coffee as a more traditional learning module. It’s big. It can serve everyone. But it’s specific to no one.
Microlearning, in the other hand, is small. It’s quick to brew. And it’s made to your tastes. Pick the pod you want or need in the moment. Looking for something bold? You got it. Want a seasonal blend. No problem. Learners can choose the flavor of the information (in both content and format), and the combination of ingredients is virtually unlimited.
Microlearning Perk: A micro menu allows for a learning experience that can be brewed to the exact specifications of each individual learner.
So why are companies starting to pour smaller cups of learning? Well, for one thing, microlearning is the perfect size. It’s just enough to give learners the information they need without making them drink an entire pot. In addition, it’s not a limited-time only drink. It’s always on the menu, and always available. And finally, it’s just right; personalized to individual learner tastes.
Microlearning should not be viewed as a replacement for more formal learning plans. It’s more accurate to view these two as the perfect blend. More formal (often longer in duration) macrolearning is a large pot of coffee that can serve everyone in the room. It’s what keeps your learning program grounded.
Microlearning, in comparison, is the cup of coffee sitting on the barista’s bar with your name on it. It’s the perfectly crafted beverage for your exact need or want. And while microlearning won’t work for every situation, serving up a learning option that is abbreviated, accessible and accurate just might leave your learners saying, ‘thanks a latte!’
Microlearning is the cup of coffee with your name on it.
About The Author
Chris Webb, MS | Director of Learning Strategy | CMR Institute
With more than a decade of instructional design and eLearning development experience, Chris brings a passion for creating highly interactive learning experiences to CMR Institute. Chris believes learning experiences should be relevant, engaging and most of all, FUN for every learner.