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Whisper it...microlearning done right!

I’ve always been a little wary of hype-ridden terms in our field. And “microlearning” is a case in point. We’re told that the typical learner these days has the concentration span of a fruit-fly…and we need to “meet learners where they are” (i.e. pander!)

Well…perhaps. But I tend to think that anything of value that can be learned in 45 seconds doesn’t need the intervention of an instructional designer. A straightforward Google search does the job. (Indeed, as one of my early instructors in this field likes to say: “Google is the most powerful e-learning platform imaginable.”)

So perhaps it’s no surprise that Google itself is leading the way on re-defining microlearning—cutting through the hype and getting it right. They’ve come up with a delivery modality they call “whisper courses”, where formal learning is followed up, in subsequent days and weeks, with short and low-tech “bite size” action learning. These provide learners with a reminder of the content…and an invitation to practice new behaviours out in the real world.

(This approach is predicated on the well-known problem that most of what is learned through formal learning channels is forgotten within a very short time…following the patterns described by the venerable Ebbinghaus forgetting curve.)

So how do we apply all this at Learn Interactive? Well, during a recent client engagement with a major retail bank in the US, we deployed a “traditional” blended course for emerging leaders on “Building Your Professional Network.” The formal learning was followed up with simple e-mail reminders, including easy-to-complete (but highly relevant) tasks. For example, two weeks after the formal learning event we sent participants an e-mail asking them to reach out to specific individuals they wanted as part of their network (e.g. as a mentor). We suggested sending out a simple request for coffee…and / or knocking on the door of their office.

Using a text entry form (with inputs captured by the LMS) we gathered feedback and updates: How did this go? Was it a reasonable ask, given the time frame? (One participant gave us an emphatic “NO” in answer to this question—which was useful and enabled us to respond by extending the time-frame.)

This is not a high-tech solution: whisper-type content can be sent by e-mail, text message or even by Slack or similar collaboration tools. But the power and impact is undeniable —and I’m certain it’s an approach we’re going to deploy more and more of with our clients going forward. Highly recommended!


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