At first glance, the design of microlearning modules appears quite simple, but that first impression is deceiving. In three- to five-minute sessions, microlearning achieves the complex goal of improving skills or increasing knowledge in a fast, frictionless format.
It is no small matter to persuade participants to stop what they are doing to complete the microlearning modules. Once there, the training is tasked with delivering information in a manner that keeps users attentive and engaged.
Microlearning completion rates aren’t the primary measure of success. The only true sign that a module is effective comes from the effect that microlearning has on participant behavior. It isn’t until learners have demonstrated mastery of the new knowledge or skill that any microlearning module is considered ready for widespread distribution.
The topic of a microlearning module has no impact on whether that module will be effective. The effort that developers put into user experience does. Microlearning leverages UX best practices to create learning that sticks, regardless of subject matter.
Designing a flawless user experience begins with a simple, intuitive user interface. However, that simplicity doesn’t happen by chance. Instead, UX designers put intensive work into backend functions so that user-facing pages are seamless.
These are the top five rules that designers live by when developing effective microlearning modules.
Getting multiple participants into the same room at the same time for in-person training has always been a challenge, and persuading learners to participate in virtual training is surprisingly difficult when they must navigate to a training platform, put in passwords, and locate the appropriate lessons. The distraction of other high-priority tasks often prevents learners from completing this type of training.
Instead, microlearning meets participants where they are. The information is delivered through channels they already use — for example, messaging apps — so the first step is done. No need to coax users into an unfamiliar physical or virtual space.
High-quality UX design focuses on creating features that fade into the background. Their effectiveness is measured by the fact that they go unnoticed by users. Microlearning takes a similar approach. It works best when it doesn’t appear over-engineered. The ultimate goal is to provide a frictionless knowledge exchange that achieves learning outcomes with minimal effort on the part of users.
Adults learn differently than their tween and teen counterparts. Techniques that work for K-12 students aren’t appropriate for an adult audience. Microlearning is specifically designed to meet the needs of its users by incorporating key points of adult learning theory.
For example, adults must be able to relate training content to their own experience, and they are more likely to retain information when it can be immediately applied.
Some training techniques aren’t effective in any format, whether it is an in-person lecture, a traditional online training platform, or a targeted microlearning experience. Some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid include impenetrable walls of text and a lack of variety in presentation methods.
When text is necessary to deliver detailed information, it should be broken up with subheadings, bullet points, and bold emphasis on critical phrases for effortless reading. Whenever possible, integrating relevant images, infographics, video, and audio ensure that content captures users’ attention and keeps them engaged throughout the module.
Busy adult brains are always taking information in, and they rely on automatic filters to mute unnecessary environmental details so they can focus on what matters. Microlearning maximizes effectiveness through design that considers how brains function.
Best practices include:
It is worth noting that one microlearning myth has been busted by science: the mistaken belief that attention spans are getting shorter. Microlearning is designed to work with both transient attention and selective sustained attention, but that isn’t because people are less capable of focus than they were before the digital age. Instead, like other features of brain function that have been identified through scientific research, microlearning makes the most of natural inclinations to focus on one bit of information versus another.
Microlearning offers a long list of benefits that aren’t usually available with alternative methods. It is proven to be effective at achieving intended learning outcomes, it typically delivers a fast return on investment, and it is highly scalable. Most of all, microlearning best practices like meeting learners where they are, maintaining the illusion of simplicity, and including attention-grabbing content are transferable to most UX applications.