Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How to Add Depth to Micro-Ideas - Tip #67

What pushes the popularity of micro, small bites learning or learning by snippets and drips? 

There Is Strong Evidence of a Convergence of Forces

Velocity of business is rapid - Organizations need to train people quickly to push products, support customers, comply with laws and others. In the words of Dr. Minimol Anil Job and Dr. Habil Slade Ogalo in the article "Microlearning As Innovative Process of Knowledge Strategy," published in the International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research, "Current technological, economic and social changes trigger the need for new concepts and strategies to support lifelong learning. Education, including work-based learning, is in need of transformation, requiring renewal and  innovative ways of relating appropriately to the way we live, work and learn today." Knowledge needs to be created on the fly and skills relevant to the task need to be acquired.

Away with data dump - Backlash from too much overload in the information type of training rather than quick application learning. In an article I wrote, I shared that big data, huge knowledge sources and voluminous information should not be forced upon the eLearners. Instead of pontificating on large data, eLearning methodology selects only a micro-lesson which can be plucked from the whole knowledge source. The result is that learners are only made to digest the meat of the whole knowledge source, dramatically reducing study time.

Affordable tools - Employees, trainers and team members have grown accustomed to small, quick, enabling tools to improve productivity, for example Evernote, YouTube, DropBox, Basecamp, PDFs, Blogs, etc. - quick tools to enable open ended transfer of knowledge and assisting quick learning. "Technological innovation has made our  society  knowledge intensive, where successful performance of individuals or groups heavily relies on the acquisition and use of relevant information content and suitable means of communication to achieve task objectives," added Job and Ogalo.

Liberated learners - Learners discover they can grab information quickly by using Google, acompany website or other sources. These tools change their behaviors or more appropriately, these tools  magnify what they could not see they have and do without them. In the words of Bryant Nielson, "Access to anywhere, anytime learning has liberated instructors and students from the four-hour seminar and the three-day workshop: they can now make the most of even five spare minutes, which has led to a new interest in Microlearning."

The big elephants are trying to change - As a matter of fact, large organizations are closely following the growth and applications of xAPI - a tracking mechanism that encourages sharing and reporting small bites learning.  As a consequence, vendors for learning systems and authoring tools are singing a different tune - "now it is OK to use informal learning" as a long as we can track them through xAPI - this was unheard of 5 years ago.

Does Content Production Equal Microlearning?

However, the word "Microlearning" is bad news just like the phrase "rapid eLearning."


The ideas of most Microlearning today is stuck with just creating content, the same way rapid eLearning has been practiced. There is an emphasis in the PRODUCTION OF CONTENT - and NOT useful applications of content.

Production-oriented Microlearning means we need to chop down content into smaller bits and so it can be consumed in fast and small chew. The problem is, this approach misses out on the point that propels the rising power and importance of Microlearning. 

Proximity to Work Versus Small Content

Focusing on the proximity of work reshapes the role of content. It means that it is the worker who decides what to use and when. Again, as Drs. Job and Ogalo would put it, "Microlearning  is a pioneering research aimed at exploring new ways of responding to the growing need of lifelong learning or learning on demand of members of the society, such as knowledge workers." The learning context of the user or learner is taken into consideration when designing contents. This has a huge impact on the way we design, deliver and make content available to workers. This suggests that workers use the goals of the tasks and have the ability to find the micro-idea to help them do the work. 

Adding Depth to Micro-Ideas

My first proposal is to consider using micro-ideas rather than learning. Micro-ideas is less hypocritical since making the idea micro does not suggest learning. What we do have are micro-ideas.

Consider these possible approaches:

Question-driven micro-ideas - collect workers', users' and learners' questions. These are questions on the job where they are asked to define "what they want to do." This is a goal statement or outcome of a task. For example:

How do I turn the knob to avoid an explosion?
What happens if I raise the temperature?
What is low risk testing?

These questions resonate with learners because they are life-application questions.
Learners learn best and find the lessons more engaging when they are about real-life applications. We can then build real-life application exercises, not memorization tests.

Solutions driven micro-ideas - questions driven micro-ideas necessitate that the worker looks for a solution, not just content. So content must be quick, instant solutions to issues on the job. Why is this important? Micro-ideas must present swift and timely solutions as priority, rather than theory or principles. If you only have a minute to read a solution since you are trying to get the job done, your instant need is how this can solve my problem and why it will work or not. If you want to know more, then you can study the theory or principles which may be presented in other content format. A useful micro-idea instantly matches to a task.

Experience driven micro-ideas - Content that's useful for workers to get the job done, must present an experience, not just theory and principle. The more relevant the experience, the more useful the micro-idea.

Instead of saying "This is the step that saves time", you may say "This tip saves 10 hours from turnaround time because it helps you skip the unnecessary step 3." Referring to the real-life value of a solution or workaround offers immediate reason for the value of the micro-idea. 

Build micro-application opportunities - When you look for opportunities to help workers
apply ideas as needed on the job, you refocus your attention on useful micro-ideas, rather than re-purposing content to which we are emotionally committed. For example, designers would say, "let's develop Microlearning leadership listening skills," without asking how learners aregoing to benefit by actually applying the ideas to solve a problem. Maybe the need on the job is to ask, "what blocks my mind when Joe is presenting an idea?" The sentence suggests an application opportunity.


Adding depth to micro-ideas means stretching our minds beyond just creating content. Rather,it is delving and understanding the work situation of the learner. If we start with this framework, we will most likely come up with micro-ideas useful to the learner - not just another chopping and dicing of content.


Gerhard Gassler, Theo Hug and Christian Glahn: "Integrated Micro Learning - An outline of the basic method and first results" 

Dr. Minimol Anil Job, Dr.Habil Slade Ogalo: Micro Learning As Innovative Process of Knowledge Strategy: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC & TECHNOLOGY VOL. 1, ISSUE 11, DECEMBER 2012  

Ray Jimenez: Small Bites Learning - Fast, Cheap, Flexible and Learners Love Them!

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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