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A little knowledge goes a long way

What would it feel like to be able to teach your colleagues how to do something just once and have them remember enough that you don’t get asked the same thing again and again?

You know how this goes: You are the only who knows what to do when the server goes down because no one else has made it their business to know and you don’t teach anyone because it is just quicker to do it yourself.

Believe me this gets old really quickly, especially when you want to take a couple of days off and they have to call you at home for the fourth time because they don’t know how you fixed the problem last time. 

This is not just about the internet connection, oh no, this is about setting up emails, troubleshooting the blue screen or spinning wheel of death on your computer, knowing how to create a specific formula in Excel and a million other things that people ask for help with on any given day in the office.

Microlearning might just be the answer to breaking the curse of the office know-it-all and start us all on a journey that creates a multi-skilled, cross-trained workforce, who is able to develop knowledge, problem-solve, troubleshoot and resolve difficulties independently. 

Micro learning is an approach to training categorised by brief learning modules, comprising bite-sized educational activities designed for quick consumption

Let me do a bit of jargon busting for you before we move on: 

Microlearning is a bite-sized learning tool created by people for people.

So, the basic idea is:

We choose a topic or skill that we want to teach and record our knowledge as an interactive learning module that can deliver an explanation and a step-by-step walk-through of the process that people can learn from. 

Why? Because next time you are asked how to do something, you can refer your colleague to this instructional. They go away and use the material you have created and learn how to do it for themselves. 

Then when another colleague wonders, “how do I do this?” colleague 1 no longer says go and ask Caree, instead they say, watch this video or read this cheat sheet, it will explain it all. 

Bam, just like that you are suddenly enjoying your day off undisturbed and they have got the buzz of confidence that can only come from learning something new.  

Let’s not stop at just making our colleagues less dependent on us, let’s open this up and make them less dependent full-stop.

If everyone in the workforce all contributed a module that covers something they know how to do and that they feel could benefit others, we could create a library of Microlearning Modules, and before long we will have achieved a knowledge sharing, self-developing workforce. 

This would be so great for new members of staff. They could access basic information on their first day to help them orientate quickly without the need for a buddy to help them learn things like, how the filing system works, or who takes milk in their tea. 

Ready to get started? Here are a few examples of Microlearning Modules that you could create:

Tech tips or resolutions

  • How to set up your email
  • How to screencast
  • How to use the shared drive
  • How to fix the server

Employee Housekeeping

  • How to reclaim expenses
  • How to request holiday
  • Preparing for an appraisal
  • Tea coffee preferences, especially helpful for anyone new

Productivity tips

  • An innovative way to time block
  • Eat the frog method
  • Tried and tested note-taking
  •  Basic Shorthand (I wish I knew this) 

Once you have decided on your subject matter you need to decide how you will deliver the information, remember they need to be short and snappy with lots of visuals.

  • Video
  • Infographic
  • Fact sheet
  • Quiz
  • Cheat sheet
  • Podcast
  • Branching scenario

Before you get stuck in, here are a few basic characteristics of standard Microlearning Modules:

Purpose

The purpose of a Microlearning Module overall should be to address a need. By this I mean that it should exist to answer a question or assist in resolving a problem. 

Time limit

Each training module must only require a couple of minutes to complete. They should deliver information in a short concise burst that can be consumed quickly. Think about when your audience might be accessing this info.

Goal-centred

Each module must focus on a specific learning goal, due to the time constraint, one objective is best delivered well than multiple sections delivered insufficiently.

Easily accessible

You have to think mobile-friendly when you are dreamlining up your course. The information needs to be in a format that can be accessed on a mobile or tablet with little effort. Having a learning module contained in a complicated spreadsheet is just not going to work here. 

Self-contained

The learning activity must contain a complete learning unit in one place. A series of videos to learn one skill is not conducive to Microlearning. It should be possible to learn the skill in one module without the need for additional reading or learning unless the learner decides to specialise or delve deeper into the subject.

Before you run off and start creating your own learning module, as an added bonus I have thrown in a few Do’s and Don’ts to help guide you along the way.

Do consider your audience . 

Think about who will be using your learning module and what level of skill they are starting with, so you can tailor your module accordingly. Consider a beginner and an advanced version if needed. 

Don’t tackle complex topics.

If the subject is highly detailed and needs lots of additional reading, then it is not ideal for Microlearning. 

Do add multimedia. 

Your module should be interactive. Utilising video, images, gifs and graphics will engage your audience and enrich their learning experience.

Don’t over-do-it.

Keep your content focused and remember it should be produced with the intention of providing one clear learning goal. Try starting with the sentence “By the end of this video you will be able to......” That should keep you focused.

Do test the experience.

Finishing your module with a short pop quiz will help the learner to gauge if they have absorbed all of the information or if they need to take another look at the material.

If I have inspired you to create a learning module and you are looking for a simple place to start, why not turn this post into a fact sheet or even a video to share with your colleagues so everyone can have a go. Don’t forget to send it to me too, so I can add it here for others to use.

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