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3 Things Minimalism Can Teach Us About Microlearning

Over the last year, I’ve been fascinated by the tiny house and minimalist movements. I keep asking myself: “What is so appealing about becoming a minimalist?” Who up and decides to downsize their belongings by almost 80% and move into a smaller space? Minimalists believe they’re bettering their lives in the long run, but is it really all it’s cracked up to be? What about in the context of learning? Why would you want to downsize from all of your ILT, field-based coaching and traditional learning modules to something...well...smaller?

As Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus outline in their documentary and blog, The Minimalists, there are several benefits minimalism can bring like: eliminating discontent, reclaiming time and getting rid of excess stuff. Similarly, many of you are probably asking yourselves if microlearning is all it’s cracked up to be. Believe it or not, but microlearning has a few things in common with the minimalist movement that you can put to work for your team:

1. Eliminate discontent

Do your learners see training as an exciting exercise or a punishment? No one loves retaking corporate training, let alone training that they may have already seen or that takes them away from their work. We see this a lot with traditional corporate training–think lengthy ILT classes or online modules that take several hours to complete.

In a recent article by eLearning Industry, study authors found only 20% of an organization’s training is spent on informal learning, yet informal learning accounts for 80% of learning success.

With informal learning, you can provide greater context to the material learned by applying it in the moment. “Efficient microlearning supports users to transition their formal learning back to the workplace, at the point when it's required.” This cuts down learner discontent and changes their mindset from “why am I learning this right now?” to instead “how can I apply this right now?”

2. Reclaim time

Training takes time no matter how you choose to deliver it. Microlearning, by definition, is short (completed in 4 minutes or less) and designed to meet specific learning objectives or outcomes. Instead of pulling sales reps out of the field to sit through another lengthy ILT course, consider delivering microlearning via a mobile app they can access in the field.

Mobile-first learning produces greater knowledge transfer than a traditional approach, allowing for less time spent out of the office and more time spent on the job, and it is just one of several ways to deliver microlearning to your team.

You can also consider a web-based app that delivers content in short bursts that can be taken at home or on the go–no more one-hour courses that learners can take only on company computers.

3. Get rid of excess stuff

If there’s one thing that defines minimalism, it’s the mantra of “less is more.” Take this approach with your learning–only do what is absolutely necessary. This means condensing your training into experiences that are short and to the point.

We understand that condensing your training isn’t easy. In fact, in can be downright painful. So where do you even start?

Consider the following exercise:

Set a timer for 30 minutes and grab your favorite brainstorm medium (laptop, pen and paper, or stone and chisel). If you had to cut your training down into a five-minute course and five minutes only, what are the most necessary points you need to get across to your learners? Can you outline them in under 30 minutes?

Again, this is easier said than done and this exercise is by no means the end all be all. Try it a few times and we bet you’ll start looking for ways to make current training shorter and more engaging for learners.

Still unsure if microlearning is right for your organization? Next time you conduct training in your organization, consider the above. Are your learners unhappy and unengaged? How much time does training take away from day-to-day work? Does the core of your training exceed 30 minutes? If the answers to these are unclear, spend some time diving in and really exploring how your learning is affecting users and their work. Perhaps you don’t need to downsize entirely from your cushy eLearning into something mobile. Maybe it’s just time to do a little decluttering.

Want to see what great microlearning can look like?

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