What is microlearning?
Microlearning is an approach to learning and development, based around offering the learner bite-sized content items or assessments to help them achieve a defined goal. It tends to focus on practice over theory and aims to solve an immediate problem, rather than building towards an assessment over weeks or months.
Whether it’s watching a 5 minute YouTube video on how to cook a new dish, reading the assembly instructions for the flat-pack wardrobe you’re about to put together, or checking a translation app for the few words of Italian you need to make a hotel reservation, microlearning is the most natural way to learn small amounts of new information just when you need them most.
We can break down the definition of what counts as microlearning as follows:
On-demand: The learning can be located, and completed in real-time, i.e. at the time when it’s needed.
Self-service: The necessary content is available to the user without relying on a tutor or trainer to interpret or deliver it.
Focused: A micro-lesson targets a specific topic, without long introductions, discussion of theory or prerequisite.
01 So, where does Moodle come in?
Having read the description above, you might be wondering why you’d need to use an LMS as part of your microlearning strategy. Learning platforms are for traditional, instructor-led, assessment-based courses, right?
Well, not quite right. In the workplace, allowing employees the freedom to pursue learning in a self-directed, unscheduled format is great in terms of empowerment, engagement and motivation. But to be most effective, there are two additional elements that need to be considered.
Thanks to the near-universal ownership of always-connected smartphones, today’s workplace learners literally have the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. But that’s not to say that all of the information you can find on a particular topic is valuable. There’s a lot of incomplete, out-of-date or simply incorrect content out there, which has the potential to confuse or mislead learners, especially those new to a topic.
Even in the self-service, learner-driven world of microlearning, there’s still an important role to play for trainers and course leaders. Rather than directly teaching learners, they play a vital role in guiding them, by reviewing and suggesting appropriate resources and activities which will keep their learning on the right track.
Here’s where Moodle comes in – organizations can use their LMS to serve as a repository, combining specialist content generated in-house, with links to external resources elsewhere on the web which have been evaluated and vetted to ensure they support a particular learning goal.
Learners can still be encouraged to explore further – this is a great way of collecting new and relevant user-curated content, but using the communication tools available through Moodle, they are able to pass any new resources they come across to their course leader or L&D manager to check their validity and value.
Another key function of Moodle for organizations pursuing microlearning is its ability to track and report on learners’ progress and achievements. At first sight, this might seem to run counter to the idea of microlearning as a discipline free from formal instruction and assessment. But for most businesses, some form of demonstrating and evaluating what employees are learning is necessary, in order to justify the time and budget spent providing learning opportunities.
So, to keep track of how employees are engaging with microlearning, how often they are undertaking it, and what they’re learning as a result, it’s useful to have a centralised system that can reliably record this data and allow L&D leaders to review and analyse it, in order to optimise their approach and ensure the best return on investment.
Moodle excels at this, allowing course creators to build in micro-assessments without significantly disrupting the free flow of learning, and providing the reports needed to develop an accurate picture of how microlearning is working for the organisation and its employees. We’ll discuss the exact features which make this possible in our section on reporting, later in this article.
02 Let’s look at how Moodle can support effective microlearning
First of all, your Moodle LMS provides an ideal repository to host all of the microlearning content your learners need, and make it accessible 24/7, from any connected device. This is crucial for on-demand learning. Moodle allows you to create, publish and share content in a range of formats, including:
Text content in microlearning needs to be purpose-built. It should be short, to the point, and easy to digest. Headlines, quotes, bulleted lists, or tweet-sized paragraphs are all effective ways to communicate a single point or concept. Steer clear of multi-page documents, in-depth articles or long-form posts.
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. When designing visual aids for microlearning, there are a few important rules to keep in mind. The image should be simple and easy to digest, it should be decipherable without referencing supporting materials, and it should be clearly annotated to aid understanding.
Infographics, charts and graphs, colour-coded maps, labelled diagrams, or comic-style storytelling are all excellent examples of how images can be used in microlearning.
With video, it’s important to keep things short and sweet. If you’ve ever seen a 30-minute screencast with a voiceover walking you through every feature of a piece of software, you’ll know how tempting it is to switch off after a couple of minutes, and how little information you actually take in.
For microlearning purposes, stick to short videos, no more than two to three minutes each, and make sure they are visually engaging, as well as professionally edited and soundtracked. There’s nothing more likely than crackly audio or low-resolution screenshots to get viewers reaching for the stop button.
Audio is an excellent medium for flexible microlearning which can be consumed while commuting. Podcasts are an obvious example of this, but as with the video content we mentioned above, quality is important to keep people engaged – so invest in some decent kit or outsource the production to a specialist provider.
The audio experience should also be considered when preparing text or image content. For accessibility purposes, such as learners using a text-to-speech screen reader it’s important that text is formatted consistently and images are appropriately tagged and described.
Secondly, Moodle is the perfect solution to facilitate interaction and collaboration. Microlearning works best when the learner can immediately, or at least quickly, access feedback on what they’ve learned, either automatically, such as a scored quiz, or personally, from their peers. Moodle has a number of activity types that support this:
Within Moodle, it’s very straightforward to set up self-marking quizzes which can give learners immediate feedback on their understanding of a micro topic. Quizzes don’t have to be long, drawn-out assessments – they can be simple 3-5 question tests which focus on a single learning item and assess how well the learner has understood it.
Learners’ scores are automatically logged in the Moodle gradebook, which helps to keep track of individual and group progress, as discussed in our section on tracking earlier in this article.
Learning through play is just as valuable in the workplace as it is in nursery school, believe it or not! There is substantial research in support of the idea that where employees can interact with learning materials, choosing their own paths, receiving real-time scores based on how well they’re doing and comparing themselves to the performance of their peers, they learn and retain information better.
Gamification is a complex topic, which could fill a whole article on its own, so for now, let’s just say that game-based learning featuring the use of role-play and interaction with realistic scenarios has great potential for improving both employee engagement and attainment. If you don’t have the in-house capability to develop these types of learning material, many content providers will offer off-the-shelf games or bespoke development services.
Forums within Moodle can act as a communication tool, allowing for topical discussion, requests for assistance or clarification, and questions to be put to course leaders or trainers.
They also provide the perfect opportunity for peer-to-peer learning, with all discussions visible to both fellow learners and the L&D team, which means that should a group of learners veer off course in terms of their understanding of the material, a course leader can step in to make the necessary corrections, or recommend useful resources to provide the missing information.
Moodle allows for the creation of collaborative resources, such as a wiki or glossary for a particular topic which can be contributed to by learners and moderated by trainers or course leaders.
This allows for reflective microlearning, in which a learner can spend a few minutes describing or explaining a topic they have just covered, reinforcing their own learning while providing useful content for their peers.
User contributions can also prompt peer-to-peer discussion of the topic as different learners collaborate to arrive at the optimal definition or explanation of a given concept, which is a great opportunity for social learning.
Thirdly, hosting your microlearning content in your Moodle introduces the possibility of conditional learning paths, which are a great way of giving learners valuable guidance, while still allowing them autonomy over the direction of their own learning.
Conditional learning involves creating several potential routes through the available content, based on “if this, then that” logic. So, once a piece of microlearning has been completed, for example, a short quiz, the individual learner can be directed to the next options available based on their performance.
If our imaginary learner did well on the quiz, Moodle can present them with some introductory activities for a new topic. If they did badly, Moodle can suggest a video recap of the topic, an infographic to explain it in a different way, etc.
Another key factor in the success of a microlearning approach is the frequency and regularity with which learners engage with resources and activities. Microlearning doesn’t work well unless learners get into the habit of doing “ a little, and often”. To help form these productive habits, Moodle allows you to set reminders and notifications to remind your employees to log in and complete their next item of microlearning.
The LMS can also notify L&D managers if certain individuals have fallen behind with their learning, perhaps having not logged in, or not completed an item of microlearning for a certain number of days, which allows them to investigate and provide targeted support if needed.
Finally, Moodle is extremely capable when it comes to evaluating and analysing microlearning within an organisation. The data generated as learners access, complete and demonstrate their learning is centralised and can be accessed by L&D manager in the form of graphical dashboards or detailed reports, allowing them to see what’s working well and what can be improved, view learner attainment at an individual or group level, and calculate the value add achieved.
This is a crucial aspect of managing microlearning, ensuring that employees’ progress is recognised and recorded and that L&D departments can implement a culture of continual improvement as well as justifying their spending on learning provision at budget reviews.
If you’d like to know more about how Moodle can support the adoption of microlearning within your team, department or organisation, and help you evaluate its success, get in touch with one of our team to discuss your specific requirements – no strings attached.