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Converting Long Form eLearning Courses to Short-Form: An Invitation to Microlearning


With high hopes of addressing a problem that was getting in the way of everyday business, you invested time and money into creating an eLearning course. 

Sadly, it hasn’t made a difference. Completion rates are low, the original problem remains, and you now have a new problem: Your lengthy (but useful) course is a dud and is not having an impact. Seems tricky, but rest assured there is a quick fix on your issue. 

Contrary to long-form training, microlearning offers the same information but packages it into smaller segments. Most micro- lessons don’t exceed 15 minutes, which makes any assignment bearable. Due to time constraints, selected topics need to be focused, simple, and straightforward. 



Microlearning has proved to be a successful alternative to long-form eLearning courses. It allows students to digest things quickly, multi-task between assignments and meetings, and finally, they retain the subject at hand better as it is a more digestible format altogether.

"8 out of 10 L&D professionals favor microlearning because their learners prefer it". More Micro-Learning Stats & Benefits in this article.

In this post, we’ll review how to apply changes to your existing long-form courses today.

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1) Where’s the gold?

Converting from long-form to short-form is going to feel like spring cleaning. The first step is to identify the issue that you want to address (lack of knowledge, lack of skill, lack of confidence, or a behavioral change, or other). The second step will be to highlight the “musts” that address said issue head-on.

What does the learner need to learn to fill the gap between what they know now and what will make a difference in their abilities?

As you go through your content ask yourself this question. It will help you narrow down what’s useful and cut out the fluff. 

That said, all is not lost. If you find yourself running into a drawn-out explanation that’s imperative to the training, consider repurposing this in a different form. For example, a lengthier point might be appropriate in a visual format.Visuals can be a very effective way to direct the learner’s focus immediately on the most important parts of the content. Think back to the big idea and decide what the most meaningful parts are and design them visually.

It is important to note that the visual you choose to use needs to have some intrinsic value. Placing one that does not add anything to the learning experience simply wastes the learner’s valuable short time (especially in mobile).

The point is to evaluate the usefulness of the content you’ve included. 

Remember these two questions as you review your content:

  • What does the learner need to learn to fill the gap between what they know now and what will make a difference in their abilities? 
  • If it’s important, how is it best delivered?

2) Less is More

Micolearning’s quick format allows learners to take advantage of short breaks throughout their day instead of interrupting it for long hours at a time. They can focus on something for 5-15 minutes and then move on to more important issues. It’s more realistic to request the completion of a bite-size 10-minute lesson per week then a 3-hour course from your employees.

Keeping it short and sweet will go a long way. If the learner is between meetings, is open to a distraction, and comes to you make the moment count. Every word needs to carry its own weight. Every sentence needs to make sense.

How can you do this? For one, stick to ONE idea. Use this idea to guide all of the decisions you make with regards to learners and what is important for them to experience in the course.  Also, keep your sentences short - under 15 words. The shorter your sentences, the smoother the reading. This might require dropping some lines, paragraphs, and even videos from the structure. It doesn’t matter. Consider the “gist” of each, if it’s not a must, drop it. If it is, then include the “gist” and move on. In addition, always consider linking industry words or ideas to resources so that anyone who wants to learn more can. It’s a win-win.

Remember:

  • Stick to ONE idea per micro-module
  • Use short sentences.
  • Cut to the chase. Do away with the history, the background information, and the theories. Deliver the “how-to” right away. Remember, your learners are looking for just-in-time solutions.
  • Don’t use big words and when needed, link jargon for further reading.

Read more: Think Small: 8 Commandments of Bite-Sized Learning

3) Find What You Need

Due to the shorter format, you may find that learners are going to want to gravitate to more relevant topics. Imagine this: An employee of yours is at a sales meeting that's been pushed back 30 minutes. They have about 20 minutes to spare in reception and decide to brush up on some sales pitch techniques. What's going to matter right now?

The one thing will make or break this moment: how searchable (and accessible) have you made the content that they need on your course?

Make sure that they can search and access this information with ease. Moreover, avoid crossing topics. Keep order within categories. You don’t want them logging onto the course, only to discover that they can’t get to the relevant “Sales” section. This is going to create frustration, and you don’t want that. That’s not what the course is there for. After all, it’s been created to there to be helpful at a time of need. So, create the structure that does that. The last thing you want is to keep them from information that will better your business results.

Aside from being easy to find, a great practice will be to provide descriptions as brief as your courses. These appetizing little intros will help guide anyone in their search.

Below is a list of questions that will help you structure any microlearning module:

  • Introduction: What is the problem we are addressing?
  • Now that we know the problem, what is the task, skill, or procedure that you will be teaching them and how does it address the problem? Pose this point as a mutual benefit. How will it be useful to them and the business as a whole? 
  • What is your short list of steps that are required to complete the tasks, arrive to an understanding, or change behavior? Focus on points that will be easy flowed and easily applied.
  • What can you say about each of these steps? Provide a quick description of each level you’ve determined is critical. You need to state clearly at the start of each module what learners will be able to DO after they have taken the module.
  • Now that you have the ‘need to know,’ what information is good to know? Add links and resources in a non-intrusive way throughout the lesson so that anyone eager to learn more can access content that you have already approved as correct.

Lastly, did it work? Before results come in, take the time to ask learners yourself if they have understood the material if they’ve applied learning in real-life and if the course is having an impact.

Bottom-line:

  • Make your course searchable for ‘on-demand’ content.
  • Categorize skills and information appropriately so that it is easy to find.
  • Follow the structure to polish up your menu of topics.

4) The Mobile Edge Done Right

Due to the brevity of the course, if you decide to provide mobile access to your microlearning course, you need to make content even more actionable and easy to find. Learners will jump on at random hours to complete their lessons. Many will be looking for fast access to helpful info right before they need it or because they have a quick break between tasks. Either way, they wouldn’t have been able to find this in your 50 slides long-form course, so the connection between your employees and the information is improving.
You will build rapport with your learners by satisfying these ‘need-to-know’ urges through actionable and intuitive micro courses. Providing them with knowledge--and confidence!--at a time of need will bring them back for more.

Remember: Be there for your learners when they need you! 

Tip" Consider using breadcrumbs to provide context. Breadcrumbs are those little streams of searching that show up when you are navigating within a website.Consider applying the same principal to micro eLearning design. Add breadcrumbs that give context and a grounding for that microlearning event. This could look like metadata or like a description at the top of the page or module. 

Also read: When Designing Microlearning, Keep Macro in Mind


 

Training is essential to the advancement of both the business and the individual. It’s through these courses that they can brush up on skills and learn best practices for situations to come. Providing more accessible formats is going to help each of you solve your issues and add value where confusion once reigned. 

Additional read: Theory to Practice: Actionable MicroLearning Tips

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