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As someone in charge of training your sales staff, you have the difficult task of selecting a vendor who can best help you achieve your organizational goals. The following fabricated scenario has been created to provide you with insights on whether microlearning is the appropriate tool to ensure that your goals are met. At the end of the scenario, you determine which vendor has considered the appropriate use of microlearning.

Client Agency Vendors

“We are launching a new oncology drug at the end of the year. We would like you to submit a proposal, and make sure your proposal develops the entire course using microlearning.”

Pharma/Biotech Client

“Absolutely! Microlearning is all the rage. People only have short attention spans so we can definitely create training that explains everything a sales rep needs to know in short bite-sized fragmented bursts of information…no problem.”

Training Agency #1
Client Agency Microlearning
Client Agency Microlearning #2

“Every training program should consider the use of microlearning to help learners retain key information; however, it’s important to consider how best to leverage its advantages, while avoiding its drawbacks. Let’s walk through a few questions to help us determine where microlearning is and isn’t helpful.”

Training Agency #2

Does your training require your learners to acquire in-depth knowledge in context, or do your learners need to grasp just one task at a time? Microlearning can be leveraged in either case; however, if you have training that requires your employees to comprehend complex topics in detail, an instructional designer needs to have thoughtfully constructed the course in a way that the topics clearly build on each other so relationships are clear. For example, the basis for understanding oncology requires learners to comprehend a complex topic like the cell cycle, in relationship to a series of other concepts, and building those relationships requires the skills of a knowledgeable instructional designer working with a content expert. Without that attention to detail, microlearning is often best used in short “how to” segments that focus on teaching just-in-time skills.

If you divide your course into many short fragments of information, where will each concept be housed? Will learners easily follow the connection from one snippet of information to another? Will they be able to follow the structure of the information to know where to begin and where to end and how the information is connected? It can be useless and frustrating if learners can’t follow the structure of the course, and learners can end up spending more time trying to locate the information rather than spending time on learning the content itself. So, make sure that your vendor has considered where to house each of the microlearning components and the ease with which the user will interact with the repository where the components are stored.

How will you measure mastery of the content? Will learners be measured on each individual topic, or will they need to prove mastery in all of the topics? You may end up with more courses to monitor, which makes the entire tracking process more challenging. Discuss what makes sense for your training staff so you can communicate the way you intend to measure learners’ performance.

Microlearning definitely has its place in helping learners to retain what they’ve learned and minimize the forgetting curve. The forgetting curve is a model that demonstrates how a large percentage of what we learn is lost over short periods of time if we don’t reinforce the knowledge. Research has shown that learning spaced over time leads to higher retention, so the use of microlearning delivered as quick review sessions or refreshers to supplement or reinforce the primary, formal training, can help increase the stickiness of the content. Quizzes that learners can take at their own convenience can also help refresh knowledge, and by reviewing knowledge at strategic points following the original learning session, learners can also pinpoint gaps that they may need to focus on and relearn.

So, our recommendation would be to let the content drive the development solution, while ensuring that we take advantage of microlearning where it can best benefit the learner and your organization.

Who do you support?

After reading this scenario, which vendor would you prefer to support you? Vendor #1 who responds to the request without fully comprehending the pros and cons of microlearning, or Vendor #2 who is well-versed in its advantages and disadvantages? It’s up to you.