eLearning and Localization Blog

How to Design Engaging MicroLearning Experiences, Part 2

Published on May 01, 2018

“Context Is King,” as the common adage goes – and it’s especially true for MicroLearning. In the previous post, we explored how a MicroLearning module could be created by following a design methodology that included three characteristics:

  • Focus is specific, targeted, and small
  • Length is 2-6 minutes
  • Content is self-contained

In this post, we’re going to ensure that the learner understands the MicroLearning content by placing it within a story based context. In other words, we are going to combine MicroLearning and Story-Based design.

To effectively use a Story-Based design, you need to do your due diligence as a learning professional to truly understand your learners. The stories that you are going to use need to be relevant and capture the learners’ work setting, pain points, language, and more in order to quickly establish their buy-in, engagement, and ultimately, their change in behavior. For example, building upon the work in the previous post, let’s create a story for a MicroLearning module that is focused on learning about a 401(k) retirement plan. Further, let’s say that our research of the learners indicates the following:

  • Most learners only have a limited understanding of a 401(k) plan
  • Most workers only contribute the minimum to their retirement
  • Most workers have smartphones
  • The company now has a mobile app to manage retirement accounts

Story-Based design first focuses on the ‘Why’, not the ‘What’. Rather than diving straight into the content of how to modify their 401(k) retirement plan using a mobile app (which is the ‘What’), let’s create a very brief story about the ‘Why’. Using Story-Based design in MicroLearning means that we are going to skip the introduction and character development of a story and jump right into the main action. We could start off with the learners’ future-self talking to them. The story could go something like this:

  • Future-Self (sitting at a garden patio): Thank you, 2018 self. You did the smart thing way back then and adjusted your 401(k) plan. That three minutes on the mobile app and the years of savings since then have given me the retirement we’ve dreamed of.
  • Future-Self (sitting in a cubicle, working): You don’t want to end up like “Less Smarter Me”, do you?

Now learners have a compelling reason Why they should do the What of the MicroLearning module. Engagement is further increased because the learning is short and targeted, providing the learners just what they need to know, when they need to know it.

Next, the design allows the learners to explore the content in a variety of perspectives. This is important since learners will have different retirement needs and pain points. These needs can be categorized into several personas (beginning career, mid-career, and late career) in which learners can choose from. Offering charts and data that aligns with the learners’ own needs is key to maximizing relevancy and engagement. In keeping with the MicroLearning design, learners only need to select the content that is relevant to them (although they do have the option to learn more if desired).

Finally, when the What of the course has been covered, briefly wrap up the story with a positive/successful message. This could be something as simple as:

  • Future-Self (sitting at a garden patio): What you waiting for? Let’s get started right now!

Article by Johnny Hamilton
Johnny Hamilton recently won a Brandon Hall Silver award for Best Advance in Leadership Simulation Tools and is eLearning Magazine’s 2016 Learning Champion award winner as a High Performer for his “outstanding contributions to the learning industry."

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