Microlearning: What it is and How it Drives Learner Engagement

Fulcrum Labs
138 posts

We hear a lot about the shrinking human attention span, and evidence of it seems to be all around us. We’re fluent in 140 character tweets. We’ve downgraded our communication from emails to texts to, finally, just emojis. And, make of it what you will, a 2015 Microsoft study claimed that humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish.

Industries across the board are witnessing this challenge firsthand. For example, Amazon has calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. Even the NBA worries about the shortened attention spans of its viewers.

In our industry, capturing the attention of learners has always been essential to our core function because the mind cannot remember, process or absorb what it does not attend to.

The challenge we’re confronted with is that traditional training methods, like lengthy PowerPoint presentations, seminars packed with lots of learning objectives and few breaks, long training manuals, etc., don’t give learners the opportunity to process and encode the information. As a result, learners become overloaded, overwhelmed and increasingly disengaged from the learning.

Enter microlearning.

Microlearning is an approach that presents content in small, interactive learning units, making it easier for learners to stay engaged and absorb the information. On the whole, the approach is known for quickly closing skill and knowledge gaps, and boosting knowledge retention. That’s one reason that microlearning is such a rapidly growing trend, with companies like Gap, Pernod Ricard and Uber leveraging it to train employees.

While microlearning is one solution to the problem of capturing and keeping learner attention, it’s an imperfect one. Often, the providers of microlearning courses simply splice traditional content into smaller pieces and don’t incorporate the adaptive technology, cognitive science principles or gaming techniques that are proven to deliver effective and efficient training. Additionally, while quizzes at the end of the microlearning event are common, they are neither designed to validate mastery of the content nor are they able to identify learners who are at risk of not being able to accurately apply the concepts on the job.

That’s why Fulcrum Labs beefs up the concept of microlearning with features that deliver increased engagement, motivation and, as a result, better learning. Our platform uses a microlearning framework to break information down into manageable, bite-sized chunks. To create a more personalized, efficient experience for the learner, we support this framework with proven techniques and technologies derived A.I., the cognitive sciences and the gaming industry, such as:

  • Multimodal Access –Learners can choose how they wish to access content from three different modalities (they can watch a video, read a lecture note or practice by solving a variety of different interactive assessments)
  • Instant Feedback – Learners can constantly keep track of their progress, which leads to increased engagement, motivation and confidence, and, our Meta-Hint Engine acts like an in-person tutor, targeting remediation for each learner to effectively close knowledge gaps
  • Adaptive Algorithms – The platform constantly reviews learner progress and adjusts the assessment questions, in real-time, to find the most “optimal challenge” for each learner
  • Mastery – Learners are required to demonstrate mastery prior to moving on to the next concept

These are just a few of the techniques we use to enhance the microlearning approach. As a result, our clients have experienced 20-50 percent reduction in training times, improved learner confidence and 38 percent improvement in knowledge levels.

Whether our attention spans are actually shorter or our preferences have simply adapted, the learning and training industry is changing with the times. Based on the results we’re seeing and the fact that our attention spans are probably getting shorter rather than longer, we believe that microlearning will continue to be a relevant trend in the coming years. But in order for it to be truly effective, providers of microlearning must embrace some of the proven learning techniques from the spheres of cognitive science, gaming and A.I.

Interested in learning more? Check out what our CEO has to say about another rapidly-growing learning trend, adaptive learning, or watch our video to learn more about the Fulcrum Labs approach.